For patients who are chronically or terminally ill, access to ‘last chance’ treatments can seem like a lottery. Professor Newdick’s advice as member of an independent inquiry committee has helped end ‘postcode’ rationing across NHS Wales and introduced a clear national policy focused on patient benefit and value for money.

Most medical treatments and services are widely accessible on the NHS. But where they fail to offer value for money, or are unlikely to work, access can be restricted.

In these cases, Individual Patient Funding Requests can be made by a doctor on behalf of a patient. The requests often relate to ‘last chance’ treatments for chronic or terminal illness, and in Wales alone up to 700 requests are made each year. However, there has been widespread discontent with the system because patients and relatives find it unfair and inconsistent.

Professor Chris Newdick, a specialist in medical ethics and NHS priority setting, has provided valuable expertise as a member of the Committee of Public Enquiry that investigated the funding process for the NHS in Wales. After wide-ranging consultation with patients, the public and health boards, the committee recommended an end to so-called ‘postcode’ rationing and clearer criteria for health board decision-making across the country.

The Welsh Cabinet Secretary accepted all the committee’s recommendations, including the need for a consistent national policy on the issue. Now everyone has a clear framework within which to consider the benefit to the individual patient while being mindful of value for money.

Following the Welsh policy reform, the recommendations have now been adopted in Berkshire by the Thames Valley Priorities Committee. Both are examples of how academics and NHS service providers work in partnership to ensure best practice and improve fairness, consistency and clarity for doctors and patients.

Partners: NHS Wales, The Thames Valley NHS Priorities Committee

Judges’ comments: “This project has had a very significant impact on policy for both doctors and patients”

Shortlisted for the University Research Engagement and Impact Awards 2019

First published: June 2019