11 February 2003
The Department of Health's scheme to prescribe disease-modifying drugs to people with multiple sclerosis is making slower progress than expected.
Independent research jointly commissioned by the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the MS Trust has revealed fundamental problems around funding and resources.
The organisations say they are concerned that the scheme's target of clearing a backlog of qualifying patients by November 2003 will not be met.
The scheme was announced by the Department in February last year and started in May. It provides for the long-term monitoring of the cost-effectiveness of beta interferons and glatiramer acetate. Patients qualify if they meet criteria set by the Association of British Neurologists.
The research was carried out among officials responsible for the scheme in England, Scotland and Wales. It showed that in some areas sufficient funds have yet to be allocated. Lack of appropriately trained staff is also hampering progress in some places. This is leading to lengthy waiting times for patients to be assessed for the drugs.
In a joint statement, Mike O'Donovan, chief executive of the MS Society, and Christine Jones, chief executive of the MS Trust, said, 'A ground-breaking initiative of this kind inevitably has teething problems, many of which can be resolved relatively easily. On the positive side, the scheme appears to have been widely accepted and is recognised as compulsory.
'However, the more fundamental issues surrounding funding and staffing are severely delaying progress in some areas and we have met the Department of Health to seek its support in addressing them. Unless the problems are resolved quickly and the whole process speeded up, we doubt the November deadline can be met.'
Notes to Editors:
The 'risk-sharing' scheme for the NHS use 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 began on 6 May 2002.
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 were subsequently interviewed and eight in-depth
telephone interviews were then conducted.
© Copyright 2003, Multiple Sclerosis Society