UK announces NHS overhaul plans

UK Health Secretary Andrew Lansley on Monday unveiled a proposal to overhaul the NHS that he says will cut costs by 20 billion pounds ($30.12 billion) by 2014. The government also announced plans to change the way the NHS reimburses pharmaceutical manufacturers, noting that it will be "moving to a system of value-based pricing."

The introduction of the new drug pricing scheme is not expected to begin until the end of 2013 when the existing five-year Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) expires. Lansley noted "I have made it clear that we are not going to introduce value-based pricing by way of abrogating the existing PPRS," but said that "there will be substantial opportunities for us to achieve more of what value-based pricing will achieve in the long term." For example, in 2011, a new cancer drug fund will be launched that will provide patients with access to the oncology treatments recommended by physicians.

Among other changes outlined in the NHS overhaul, the government calls for the elimination of a large portion of its financial and administrative structure. As a result of these proposed changes, 10 strategic health authorities would be eliminated by 2012, 150 existing primary care trusts would be dismantled by 2013, and up to 30 000 management positions could be cut.

Chris Ham, chief executive of the King's Fund healthcare think tank, added that "it is a very radical programme. We have never seen anything like this since the inception of the NHS in 1948."

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