Submissions are coming in slowly but surely to the UK parliament’s Health Select Committee which is gearing up for an inquiry into the workings of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

NICE publishes clinical appraisals of whether particular treatments should be covered by the NHS, based primarily on criteria of cost-effectiveness and regularly comes in for criticism from drugmakers, charities and medical professionals.

As a result, the HSC is doing the groundwork for an inquiry which will look at - why NICE’s decisions are increasingly being challenged; - whether public confidence in the Institute is waning, and if so why; - NICE’s evaluation process, and whether any particular groups are disadvantaged by the process; - the speed of publishing guidance; - the appeal system; - comparison with the work of the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network and; - the implementation of NICE guidance, both technology appraisals and clinical guidelines (which guidance is acted on, which is not and the reasons for this).

Duma Langton, committee assistant for the HCS, told PharmaTimes World News that submissions to the inquiry need to made by March 23 and the committee will make its review after Parliament’s Easter recess. It is hoped that a final report may be produced by the time MPs finish work for the summer on July 26. The HCS has 11 members, led by Kevin Barron, MP for Rother Valley, and contains three doctors (Doug Naysmith, Howard Stoate and Richard Taylor).

The fact that it is to be the subject of an inquiry does not appear to worry NICE. Its chair, Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, said that since its inception in 1999, “the Institute has evolved in response to the challenges the NHS faces in setting national standards for promoting good health and preventing and treating ill health.” He added that “our aim is to do everything we can to support the patients, carers and health professionals that our guidance benefits, and we welcome the opportunity to assist the Committee in investigating the challenges we face to make this a reality.”