20 August 2002
By Lorna Duckworth Health Correspondent
A panel of lay advisers is to help experts to make controversial decisions about health care, such as whether young patients should have greater access to drugs and therapies than older people.
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice), which decides what treatments should be available on the NHS, is to recruit a Citizens' Council of 30 people.
The council will not take part in the clinical assessment of new medicines, which will continue to be made by specialist committees.
But it will consider "broader principles", such as whether cancer patients should be given expensive drugs to prolong their lives for a few weeks. It could also discuss whether treatments should be subject to age-related rationing.
For example, it could influence guidance on treating schizophrenia or multiple sclerosis if it felt younger people with jobs would gain more benefit from costly drugs.
It could also have a say over whether treatments for obesity or to help people stop smoking should be provided only if patients showed a genuine commitment to improving their health.
Nice said yesterday that the Citizens' Council was intended to provide
"a backdrop of public opinion against which independent committees can
make their decisions".
© 2002 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd