The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain has added its views on the UK Government’s decision to allow 'top-up' payments for costly treatments within the National Health Service.

The RPSGB said that while it welcomes the government’s decision to clarify regulations about patients buying medicines privately while also receiving NHS treatment, it is stressing the need for greater emphasis on the access and affordability of medicines. The society’s president, Steve Churton, said the need for top-ups should be minimised as far as possible and “should be the exception, not the rule”.

He added that the RPSGB agrees with the Richards Report that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence’s processes for assessing new medicines need to be speeded up, “although there are risks with this, especially where there are insufficient published data on which to base the assessment. Mr Churton added that what the society would like to see is “the improvement of local decision-making processes for funding exceptional prescribing in order to provide prompt, consistent, robust and transparent decisions”.

He concluded by saying that patients also need to be better informed about the medicines available to them, “through access to unbiased information, so that they can make the best possible choices about their personal treatment”. However, measures should be put in place to protect vulnerable patients from misleading claims, Mr Churton said, noting that “pharmacists will play a key role in advising patients and helping them access trustworthy sources of information in these situations”.