In response to today’s front page story in the Independent, James Palmer, Clinical Director of Specialised Services at NHS England, said:
“We are determined to work constructively with patients and to take evidence-based decisions having listened with care to the views of all parties.
“It is completely wrong to suggest we are being unduly influenced by lobbyists. To do so misunderstands what these documents are.
“NHS England has just launched an extensive process of engagement to support the development of its strategy for specialised commissioning. In defining some of the outline principles NHS England has spoken to lots of patients groups. Specialised Healthcare Alliance (SHCA) was asked along with other organisations to support the process of engaging patient groups and other stakeholders to let us know what they thought the outline principles should be. This did not involve consulting on any individual treatment or consulting on any spending decisions. The difficult decisions about where it will spend the budget is defined through a governance process not related to this work on the strategy. Such decisions governed by the Clinical Priorities Advisory Group (CPAG) and the Direct Commissioned Service Committee.
“This publication you refer to is merely a factual write up of one of 17 engagement events. It is not the final strategy and it is not NHS England policy. NHS England partnered with the two leading patient organisations Specialised Healthcare Alliance and Rare Disease UK – which have by far have the greatest coverage over the full range of patient groups related to specialised services – to arrange and hold the first of these 17 stakeholder events to help form the ‘Scope’ of the specialised strategy in broad general terms. We did not pay the SHCA any money, NHS England paid for the event venue, SHCA provided administrative support to secure multi-stakeholder attendance and collect the feedback of the event into a report.
“The output from all 17 of the engagement events – of which this is just one – will feed into a draft strategy. This will be published and widely consulted on with all stakeholders. The consultation on the strategy will take place late spring into summer with the aim of a final strategy being produced in July 2014.
“Every decision we take will be driven by the interests of patients and the public, nothing else.”