6 February 2003
The MS Trust and the MS Society today released details of new independent research which demonstrates the current status of the disease-modifying drugs risk-sharing scheme. The findings show that while progress is being made in many respects, fundamental issues surrounding funding and resources remain. As a result, the scheme is being implemented more slowly than anticipated and there are some concerns as to whether it can be completed within the 18-month timeframe originally outlined in Health Service Circular 2002/004. The findings have been presented to the Department of Health and its feedback it awaited.
The research was carried out among MS Lead Officials in Strategic Health Authorities/Health Authorities/Health Boards in England, Scotland and Wales. The aim was to gain an accurate picture of health bodies’ progress in implementing the risk-sharing scheme and to explore some of the issues surrounding take-up.
The results indicate a mixed picture. On the positive side, the scheme appears to have been widely accepted and is seen as compulsory. As a result, it is being implemented across England, Scotland and Wales and all participants were hopeful that they would have the scheme fully in place by the end of 2003.
However, it is apparent that some fundamental barriers to successful implementation remain. Inadequate funding is a key issue. Some areas state that sufficient funds have yet to be allocated, although the advent of the new financial year should help to resolve this problem. Infrastructure problems are also hampering progress, with lack of appropriately trained staff being a major delaying factor. This is leading to lengthy waiting times for patients to be assessed, thus delaying their potential access to the disease-modifying drugs.
Chris Jones, Chief Executive of the MS Trust, and Mike O’Donovan, Chief Executive of the MS Society comment on the findings: “It is encouraging to see that the risk-sharing scheme is being implemented across England, Scotland and Wales, albeit more slowly than anticipated. With a ground-breaking initiative of this nature, there have inevitably been some teething-problems, many of which can be resolved relatively easily. However, the more fundamental issues surrounding funding and infrastructure are severely hampering progress and we are looking to the Department of Health for its support in addressing these. Unless these issues can be resolved and the whole process can be speeded up, in our view it is doubtful that the November 2003 deadline can be adhered to.”
The risk-sharing scheme for the NHS usage of disease-modifying drug therapies for MS was announced by the Department of Health in February 2002 in Health Service Circular 2002/004. The scheme, which commenced on 6 May 2002, was set up to ensure that people with MS could access the drugs and to allow the NHS to collect long-term data to ascertain whether their usage was cost-effective.
The research was conducted by Opinion Leader Research during November 2002. Questionnaires were initially sent to 49 Lead Officials in England, Scotland and Wales, 18 lead officials were subsequently interviewed and then 8 in depth telephone interviews were conducted.
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