The House of Commons Health Select Committee has announced that it will hold an inquiry in the New Year into the private purchasing of drugs by patients to top up their National Health Service (NHS) care.

The Members of Parliament (MPs) say they have decided to conduct the inquiry following publication of the report by National Cancer Director, Professor Mike Richards, into improving access to medicines for NHS patients, and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)’s announcement that it would hold a consultation on changes to the way it appraises end-of-life medicines.

Prof Richards’ report was published on November 5, and on that date Health Secretary Alan Johnson announced that the ban on NHS treatment for patients who chose to top up their care would be lifted immediately. He also said that he was accepting all 14 recommendations of Prof Richards’ report, noting that these were likely to “substantially widen access to new drugs and reduce the need for private payment.”

NICE also announced on November 5 that it would hold a five-week consultation on its plans to give new advice to its appraisal committees to help them take account of the “considerable value” which patients and the public place on treatments which offer the possibility of extending life when death is close.

“When Prof Mike Richards was preparing his report, we decided to make our contribution to finding a solution to the issue of co-payments,” said NICE chief executive Andrew Dillon.

Subsequently, this month has also seen the publication of the revised Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS), which takes effect from January 1 and includes a flexible pricing system for medicines which are subject to NICE appraisal plus measures to encourage drugmakers to develop patient access schemes.

For its inquiry, the Health Select Committee is inviting organisations and individuals to e-mail written evidence, of no more than 3,000 words, by December 11, to