At present, there are real concerns that the usual way of approving treatments for general use takes far too long, and doesn’t take into account that some patients may be more responsive than others to some types of treatment. There is a process where patients may apply for funding if their doctor thinks they should have the treatment, but far too often these decisions come down to the area a patient lives, and the criteria of ‘exceptionality’ – which basically means patients have to prove they are more worthy than others.
Plaid plans to establish a national panel to approve/reject requests for treatment not ordinarily available for patients provided by our NHS. Its decisions would apply nationally so that the postcode lottery can be brought to an end. Plaid would also get rid of the criteria that patients demonstrate ‘exceptionality’ in order to be successful, which will lead to more patients benefiting from this. This would obviously lead to an increase in spending on drugs and other treatments. To cover these costs Plaid would fund this by establishing a ring fenced budget funded by the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme rebate payments that Wales receives every year. In 2015/16 this fund would be £56 million.
National panels would be established for each speciality where these issues tend to arise e.g. a national panel for cancer. When a doctor found they could not access treatment for a patient in the usual manner, they could apply to the National Panel by making an individual patient funding request, getting two other doctors to support the application. The doctor would have to demonstrate that the treatment proposed would be effective in treating the patient or significantly prolonging their life. Doctors would also have to keep a record of the patient’s progress to ensure we weren’t wasting money on treatments that didn’t work.