Who Is To Blame When Patients Are Denied Expensive Treatments?

November 13, 1998

(Primary care groups and the right to prescribe)

Christopher Newdick from the Department of Law at the University of Reading writes in this week's BMJ that since the NHS began, general practitioners (GPs) have had a duty under their Terms of Service to prescribe medicines to their patients on the basis of need. But with so many new and expensive drugs available he warns that the new primary care groups will have to operate within cash limits and therefore some patients will have to go without.

Newdick ponders the legal position for GPs: what is the nature of their duty to prescribe expensive medicines when the cost of doing so would exceed their imposed budget and moreover, who is to blame when patients are denied access to expensive medicines? Newdick says that the UK Government White Paper entirely avoids this issue and he feels that "...pressurising the Government to make a positive contribution to this debate is irresistible".

Contact:

Christopher Newdick, Reader in Health Law, Department of Law, University of Reading, Reading, Berkshire c.newdick@reading.ac.uk
-end-


BMJ

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