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October 13 2009

Bureaucratic Bungling Reduces Access to Treatment

Nicole Kurokawa Neily

Despite approval by Britain's National Institute on Clinical Effectiveness, citizens' access to photodynamic therapy (PDT), a potentially life-saving cancer treatment, has been restricted due to red tape.

From the Daily Mail:

[G]iven its obvious advantages, why is it so little used? Partly it's because some medics consider it experimental on the basis there are no full-scale controlled trials for some of its uses (despite NICE approval for other uses).

... Red tape also plays a part in poor uptake. 'Some health authorities require approval every time PDT is used,' says David Longman, of Killing Cancer, the charity behind the new campaign.

'Then they may refuse it, even though it's cheaper than chemo, because any treatment beyond the norm shows up as an extra expense.' ...

When this was put to the Department of Health, a spokesman said it was up to clinicians, 'using their judgment, to decide on the most effective treatment, and then for the relevant Primary Care Trust to decide'.

Clinicians and campaigners feel the NHS has been dragging its feet. Two years ago, the Department of Health commissioned a review of PDT - 'but it's not going to be finished for another seven months,' says David Longman. 'I thought we were getting somewhere, but the lack of urgency by the Department of Health has been astonishing.'

The Department of Health said: 'We are committed to ensuring that newer treatments are made available as widely as possible, and a review of the evidence will be published in spring 2010.'

Now remember, concerns with a government take-over of health care have included:

  • The chilling effect of comparative effectiveness on research - even if research is successful, if it is deemed too "expensive" it will not be utilized.
  • Rationing based on prices and costs.
  •  Bureaucrats coming in between you and your doctor, determining what treatments you can or cannot have.
  •  Inefficiency.
  •  Rigidity in decision-making - when the government refuses treatment, there is no appeal, whereas in the private sector someone can change insurance companies or pay out of pocket.

Looks like those fears are well-founded.

IIndependent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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