NICE chief executive Andrew Dillon has defended the efficiency of his organisation and the manner it reaches its decisions against an onslaught of patients denied treatment.

During his appearance on Radio 4’s You and Yours, Mr Dillon faced often emotional complaints from patients with bone marrow and kidney cancer who said the institute had either not analysed medicines which would help them or had advised the NHS against prescribing them.

Mr Dillon suggested that when a drug had not been considered by NICE primary care trusts were expected to reach their own decisions according to local priorities. In cases where NICE has recommended against the use of a drug by the NHS, he said, the institute was ensuring that NHS resources were used equitably and in a cost-effective manner.

Responding to the cases raised by callers denied a treatment they had sought for terminal illnesses, he said: “That illustrates the challenge NICE is facing in meeting the needs of patients and the need to spread the money across all the things that need to be done. That means we need to make choices and if you are going to make choices you need to make sure you are making them on the basis of the best evidence you can.”

He did however acknowledge that the institute had previously been too slow in starting its appraisal process but said that wherever possible it now begin its own evaluation while a product was going through the licensing process.

Challenged about his organisation’s name, which the presenter said must be a burden, Mr Dillon said: “Not at all – I know it irritates some people I know but it is very easy to remember and I rather like it now.” Chris Mahoney