The UK Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has pledged that all drugs recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) will be available across the country.
The commitment, made in response to a question from Labour MP John Healey in the House of Commons, is an attempt to address the 'postcode lottery' for drug access created by some local primary care trusts failing to follow the cost-effectiveness watchdog's guidance.
Lansley said: "We will establish an effective compliance regime on NICE appraisals and establish a new NICE implementation collaborative to make it happen.
But he said the legislation underpinning NICE guidance was clear, adding: “Where NICE gives a positive appraisal, a medicine should be available across the NHS.”
The pledge was made on the same day that the Department of Health (DH) said it had accepted all recommendations made by the Future Forum in its second set of reports concerning prospective NHS reforms.
The Future Forum, a group of experts asked by the government to discuss reforms to the NHS outlined in the Health and Social Care Bill with healthcare stakeholders, had previously had its core recommendations accepted by the government in June, 2011.
The latest series of recommendations sets out further ways to improve the quality of patient care and achieve better outcomes, with the four areas of focus covered being integration, education and training, information and the NHS' role in public health.
Concerning integration, the Forum said attempts to align services should be built around the patient, not the system, with health and wellbeing boards to drive local integration.
Local commissioners and providers should also be given greater freedom and flexibility.
Recommendations for education and training include local boards having the governance in place to deliver strong partnerships across healthcare providers, academia and education, as well as having a system in place that rewards quality education and embeds continuing professional development.
With regards to public health, the Forum said the NHS should also do more in the prevention of poor health to reduce health inequalities, as well as doing more to support the wellbeing of its own staff.
Responding to the recommendations, Lansley said: “As we modernise the health and care system to meet the challenges of the future, it is essential the thoughts of clinicians and, importantly, patients, are listened to.
“So the NHS Future Forum has again provided invaluable feedback on what the NHS needs to do to improve results and put the NHS truly on the side of patients. I'm pleased to accept all its recommendations.”
The recommendations made by the Future Forum were generally welcomed by the healthcare community.
Chair of the Royal College of General Practitiioners, Dr Clare Gerada, said the report had some “excellent recommendations” for strengthening the role of GPs, with especial praise for the emphasis on extended training.
Dr Gerada did however have concerns about plans to raise 'lifestyle' issues with all patients at every consultation as part of plans to 'make every contact count' between healthcare professionals and patients.
She said: “[W]e must remember that the patient comes to us with their agenda - and it is important we do not take over.”
Britain's nursing body, the Royal College of Nurses, had similar hopes concerning the Forum's proposal, with the prevention of ill health a big part of the College's own recommendations during the discussion period.
Chief executive and general secretary Dr Peter Carter, said: “Not only does focussing on prevention improve the quality of life of many people, it also saves the NHS money at a time when resources are already extremely scarce.”
According to the DH, the NHS Future Forum listened to more than 11,000 people face-to face at more than 300 events as well as engaging with people online. More than 150 formal responses were received as part of the process.