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Government accused over top-up drugs policy

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22 October 2008

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Ministers have accused the government of changing its policy on patients paying for top-up drugs during a heated Lords question time.

A number of high-profile cases of cancer patients whose NHS treatment was withdrawn after they paid for extra drugs have brought the issue to public attention.

Spokeswoman Baroness Thornton said: “Some trusts are allowing patients to buy additional private drugs and retain their entitlement to NHS care while others are not.”

She added that a review by Professor Mike Richards was due to be finished by the end of October and a statement would be made to Parliament early in November.

But Tory Lord Naseby said: “The minister a year ago told this very House that copayments did not form part of the basic principles of the NHS.

“Now we discover there are a number of NHS trusts that have been carrying out copayments, presumably without the knowledge of the Department of Health, which is itself extraordinary.”

Lady Thornton told peers: “There is no suggestion that trusts are breaking the current national guidelines. The problem we have is the interpretation.”

Professor Richards’ review would help to ensure fairness, she added.

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