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Government to review policy on copayments

18 June 2008

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The government is to review the policy on patients who top up NHS treatments by paying for private care, the Health Secretary has announced.

Alan Johnson told MPs that cancer expert Professor Mike Richards will lead the review after the policy was blamed for preventing some patients receiving free NHS treatment if they opted to pay for drugs not available on the health service.

Mr Johnson said there was a need for “up-to-date” guidance on the issue and added that Professor Richards’ report would be published in October.

“I have today asked Professor Mike Richards, the national clinical director for cancer, to review policy relating to patients who choose to pay privately for drugs not funded on the NHS,” Mr Johnson said.

Tory John Baron (Billericay) has led the campaign for a review, following the death of his constituent, 64-year-old Linda O’Boyle, who was denied free treatment because she opted for a drug only available privately.

“The ban on copayments was cruel because, as we know, it took NHS care away from patients who were dying,” Mr Baron said. “As the case of Linda O’Boyle proves, patients want and need a change in this policy now, not in a year’s time.”

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“I think patients should be allowed free NHS treatment if they pay for drugs privately. Private consultants constantly ask GPs to prescribe drugs on the NHS, what is the difference? I feel the health service should no longer be called the National Health Service it should be called the Local Health Service, because that it what it has become” – Name withheld, Essex