Blog: Haslam calls for parity between patients and doctors in making treatment decisions

It was refreshing to read today’s Daily Telegraph interview with the still relatively new Chair of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), Sir David Haslam. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/nhs/10595806/NHS-patients-should-be-pushy-with-GPs-about-treatment-and-drugs-says-health-chief.html)

His comments encouraging patients to be more assertive in asking for drugs approved by NICE that have fallen foul of the postcode lottery should be applauded. As should his sentiments and views on shared decision-making, the parity that should exist between patients and doctors. If not more so. They read like something Musafa in The Lion King might say. By all accounts they are typical of the man, a former GP and long-standing champion of patient rights.

That is not to say I won’t I miss his predecessor, Sir Michael Rawlins, who was equally admirable only in a different way. Particularly his annual broadside – which always seemed to coincide with early August for some reason – aimed at the overly cosy relationship between charities and pharmaceutical companies in lobbying NICE over what it did and didn’t approve. Sir Michael was right of course. Even if one came away thinking that, as a regulator, he protested just a little too much given the job description.

But with Haslam at the helm maybe NICE will no longer have the air of the steely regulator making hard decisions others duck, and show that it is on the side of consumers just that little bit more. Emboldening patients to exercise their rights and ensure NICE’s decisions are implemented fairly is an excellent first step.

Haslam’s comments about ‘parity’ between patients and doctors and the importance of shared decision-making is going to be increasingly important in the coming years. Rationing is about to take on a whole new twist with stratified or personalised medicine. Postcodes will one day be redundant in this debate. Genetic codes won’t. We will need to be able to trust our regulators above all, But more of that later this week.

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