The UK’s National Institute for Clinical Excellence is in talks with the Department of Health over proposals for a revised process that would speed up approval of important new medicines and health technologies.

The move comes in response to growing criticism over the current system of drug approvals, which sees patients sometimes waiting as long as 16 months before gaining access to new, potentially-life saving, drugs.

NICE’s proposals to the DoH, which were drawn up earlier this week, include for the potential for the Institute to issue guidance shortly after a drug becomes available for use in the National Health Service. Life-saving medicines are expected to have priority under this system, as many hospitals wait for NICE guidance before using newly-licensed drugs.

Andrew Dillon, NICE’s Chief Executive, commented: “We have listened to what patients and healthcare professionals have told us about the need for timely advice on the use of new medicines, particularly for life-threatening conditions such as cancer. We have responded by proposing a new, streamlined process for single drugs, and we think these proposals can make a real difference.”