The NICE Commissars Issue Their Latest Edict

NICE Targets Pregnant Women in Latest “Guidance”

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has issued guidance telling midwives to carry out carbon monoxide tests on pregnant women to find out whether they smoke. “Help” will then be offered if the result is positive.

Adherence to this guidance by midwives is mandatory.

Now I personally do not smoke. My opinion is that it is a pretty foolish thing to do, especially if you are a pregnant woman.

However, NICE was set up to evaluate the clinical and cost effectiveness of new treatments and decide whether they should be offered on the NHS.

The aim was to avoid the “postcode lottery” where a treatment might be available in one area and not in another.

NICE has now completely lost sight of its remit. More than that, it has clearly completely misunderstood the proper role of the State itself. The State is there to provide services to the public. To stretch a point, you might argue that the State can properly provide information, for example about the dangers of smoking, so that people can make up their own minds.

It is not the role of the State to try and mould people’s behaviour, or to put pressure on them to behave in particular ways.

And it is certainly not the role of midwives to act as an anti-smoking gestapo.

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, should remind NICE what their role is. Better still, he could abolish NICE completely and save £60 millon to be spent on patient care.

Listen up, you NICE bureaucrats, if you want to act like this, go and live in a country with a political system that is more to your way of thinking. Like North Korea.

NICE Propaganda at Taxpayers’ Expense

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has weighed into the debate on alcohol with a call for a minimum price.

The NICE “guidance” recommends banning alcohol advertising, making alcohol less easy to buy, setting a minimum price, introducing measures to reduce the number of licenced premises and tougher questions from GP’s on patients’ alcohol intake.

This is not guidance. This is a political proposal, and a controversial one at that.

The Coalition government has so far said that it does not support a minimum price for alcohol. The British Retail Consortium and the Wine and Spirit Trade association are as you would expect opposed. (Tesco recently supported a minimum price, no doubt with an eye on the big boost to their profits that would result from such a measure.)

In fact, decent people everywhere ought to oppose measures like this, which would have been par for the course for the old Labour government, but ought not to have a place in a free society.

By producing a report like this, NICE is far exceeding its remit. As their website says:

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) provides guidance, sets quality standards and manages a national database to improve people’s health and prevent and treat ill health.

None of that covers producing a proposal for the State to fix the price of a legally available commodity.

By making what are political proposals, that are in clear opposition to the government’s declared policy, NICE is very clearly exceeding its remit. NICE has not been given its budget by the government to make political proposals, and the civil servants who run it should not be using that budget to provide a platform for their own political hobby-horses.

There have been major questions and controversy about NICE’s decisions on the availability of drugs to treat terminal diseases. Perhaps we now, with this report, can begin to see why NICE has been less than effective in doing its job. It is devoting its energy to matters that have nothing to do with it.

NICE’s budget for 2007/8 was £35 million. No doubt its budget this year is even higher. If it has the money available to spend on propaganda like this, it is clearly getting too much.

NICE should be a target in the next round of spending cuts.