Sunday, 29 June 2008

Browns Lifeline: Gordon Brown promises to end NHS postcode lottery

Gordon Brown vows to end the NHS postcode lottery (And hopes it will save his skin too) Health shake-up aims to benefit PM..and the nation.

By Nigel Nelson Political Editor Nigel.Nelson@People.Co.Uk

Gordon Brown will tomorrow pledge to end the NHS postcode lottery in a desperate bid to regain public trust.

The PM will announce a health revolution with easier access to life-saving drugs to mark the 60th anniversary of the NHS.

He hopes his plan will take the spotlight off his other woes which deepened yesterday when Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander quit.

The sister of Mr Brown's International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander stood down after failing to declare donations to her leadership campaign. Mr Brown will unveil a new NHS constitution so all patients can get the expensive drugs they need instead of just happening to live in the right health area.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said: "These are seen as a lottery. There are too many variations around access to prescribed drugs.

"The constitution will make it explicit patients have the right to drugs and treatment if clinically appropriate."

Spending on drugs for cancer, heart disease and mental illness are four times higher in some places than others. Northants hospitals spent £132 per head on cancer treatment compared to only £35 in Birmingham.

Coronary patients in Lancs had £173 spent on them compared to £68 in parts of London.

There were court fights when some women were denied £30,000 courses of wonderdrug Herceptin for early stage breast cancer. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence which approves drugs must speed up the process to six months from three years.

And any patients denied them will have a quicker appeals procedure.

Mr Johnson added: "If a decision is taken not to fund a drug then your local NHS will have to explain that to you."

Patients will also get a legal right to decide which hospitals they are treated in after examining a league table of death rates. And from April they will be able to give a verdict on how good their treatment was in post-op questionnaires.

Failing hospitals could get less Government money.

Mr Brown wants to use the NHS revamp as a poll launchpad after the latest puts him 21 points behind the Tories.

There was a humiliating wipeout at the Henley by-election last week with Labour trailing fifth, behind the BNP.

And the PM faces an election battle north of the border after Glasgow East MP David Marshall announced he was quitting because of ill health.

Mr Brown yesterday said he would not face former shadow Home Secretary David Davis in a public debate about loss of freedom under Labour.

(also Sunday Mirror article here)