Page last updated at 17:59 GMT, Wednesday, 1 October 2008 18:59 UK

Revised guidance for top-up drugs

A variety of different pills
NHS patients may be allowed to access drugs from private health services

Revised guidance on patients receiving drugs not available on the NHS will make the system clearer, Scottish ministers have said.

But Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said drugs should be available on the health service where they were proven to be "clinically effective".

Her comments came in a debate raised by the death of Michael Gray, from Buckie.

The 53-year-old, who died in April from bowel cancer, needed the drug cetuximab, for which his family paid.

Although licensed in Scotland, it was not approved by Mr Gray's local health authority - NHS Grampian - although it is available on the NHS in Wales.

Scots health boards can consider individual cases for making new drugs available to patients in exceptional circumstances.

Ms Sturgeon pledged a review of the rules banning patients from paying for medicines while accessing NHS services, known as "co-payments".

"It is important to stress that cases of co-payment must be and always will be the exception and not the norm," she told parliament.

"Patients can't and shouldn't, in my view, be able to pay the NHS to provide care that's not otherwise available.

"That would lead to a two-tier system."

Patients had a right to access care in the private sector, but, Ms Sturgeon said, it would not be appropriate for this to be paid for where the NHS and private treatment were so interwoven they could not be separated.

Mr Gray's widow, Tina McGeever, attended Holyrood for the debate, which came after parliament's health committee called for more clarity in the way that health boards decide whether cancer patients can receive non-NHS drugs.

Cancer drugs 'need more clarity'
18 Jun 08 |  North East/N Isles
Q&A: NHS co-payments
11 Sep 08 |  Health

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