Observations Body Politic

New Labour shows its true colours over the blues

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a1412 (Published 22 August 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1412
  1. Nigel Hawkes, health editor, The Times
  1. n.j.m.hawkes{at}googlemail.com

    A row over the provision of a treatment for mild to moderate depression illustrates a contradiction in government policy over drugs approved by NICE

    One of the pleasures of Department of Health announcements is spotting how many promises have been made before. Ara Darzi’s report of his Next Stage Review of the NHS was full of these, but none struck me as quite as rich as the promise to introduce legislation to oblige primary care trusts (PCTs) to implement guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

    Some of us naively thought that this obligation already existed. As long ago as December 2001, directions were issued ordering PCTs to make available, within three months, any healthcare interventions approved by NICE. But this directive has been ignored. No effective machinery was ever set up to monitor its implementation; and ministers, when questioned in parliament about specific treatments, fall back on a standard formula. “The information requested is not held centrally,” they say.

    This isn’t always true, alas. Take the case of computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (CCBT), which got the nod from NICE as long ago as …

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