1. ITV Report

Health experts reject Government's 'anti-elderly' drug proposals

Video report by ITV News Social Affairs Editor Penny Marshall

Health experts have rejected Government proposals that would see an assessment of the benefits a patient may have on society being taken into account when deciding whether to pay for new drugs.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) dismissed the plans by ministers, that would see patients who contribute to the economy being given priority, according to The Times.

The head of NICE, Sir Andrew Dillon, told the newspaper that such an approach would leave the old more vulnerable, as younger patients would be seen as having more to gain from treatment, as they could put more back into society.

What we don't want to say is those 10 years you have between 70 and 80, although clearly you are not going to be working, are not going to be valuable to somebody.

Clearly they are. You might be doing all sorts of very useful things for your family or local society. That's what we are worried about and that's the problem with the Department of Health's calculation.

There are lots of people who adopt the fair-innings approach; 'you've had 70 years of life you've got to accept that society is going to bias its investments in younger people.

– Sir Andrew Dillon, Head of NICE
Sir Andrew Dillon. Credit: PA Wire

NICE give independent advice and guidance to the NHS, along with local authorities, charities and organisations who have the ability to commission or provide healthcare, public health or social care services.

They approve drugs which cost less than £20,000 to give a year of good-quality life.

Sir Andrew wants a similar formula to assess how a patient's quality of life is affected by illness, and then use it to estimate the social benefit of a treatment that could return them to full health.

David Cameron's official spokesman said that the Government had been very clear that there would be no age discrimination in relation to the matter.

The key point to underline here is that last year, in October 2013, the Government very clearly introduced an age discrimination ban under the Equalities Act 2010 when it comes to entitlement for treatment.

We have been very clear that there will not be any discrimination in this regard.

It is very clear that, when it comes to treatments that are made available through Nice, there shouldn't be and won't be any discrimination that might disadvantage any particular group.

– Spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron

The Department of Health say that they have asked NICE to look at the way drugs are currently assessed so that patients can get the treatments they need at the best value of the NHS.

We want to make sure we get the best possible results for all NHS patients with the resources we have, which means using taxpayers' money responsibly and getting good value for money.

That's why we have asked Nice to look at the way drugs are assessed so that patients can get the treatments they need at the best value for the NHS and the price the NHS pays is more closely linked to the value a medicine brings.

We understand that it's an important and complex issue on which many people will have views and Nice will be consulting widely on the proposals.

– Spokesperson, Department of Health

Users of the ITV News Facebook page were asked what should be the primary concern when it comes to administering drugs:

Dannie Hanlon: The fact that this has even been considered makes me furious. It goes against everything the NHS stands for!

Kath Gwynn: It is shocking how the elderly are being made to pay over and over again after working hard all their lives. They now deserve us to care for them after all they cared for us.

Bobby Presley: Quality of life has to be the highest priority.

Karen Roebuck: A slippery slope. No one should have a right to say who is contributing to society or who has contributed more than another?