Feature Public Health

NICE told to back off “national policy issues”

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h6766 (Published 17 December 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6766
  1. Jonathan Gornall, freelance journalist, Suffolk, UK
  1. jonathan.gornall{at}me.com

Health experts react angrily as it emerges that ministerial intervention was behind removal of a NICE recommendation to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol. Jonathan Gornall reports

The supposedly independent National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) bowed to political pressure from ministers and removed references to a controversial alcohol policy from its guidance on the prevention of dementia, disability, and frailty in later life.

The edit appears to have been made as the result of a letter sent by the Department of Health to NICE’s chief executive just two weeks after the guidance was published in draft form.

When the draft version of Dementia, Disability and Frailty in Later Life—Mid-Life Approaches to Prevention was published for consultation on 11 July 2014, it included a recommendation that minimum unit pricing should be introduced as part of efforts to reduce alcohol consumption.1

Only minor changes were made to the document as a result of the two month consultation, which ended on 5 September 2014. But when the final version of the guidance was published on 20 October 2015—more than a year later—all mention of minimum unit pricing and any role for national government had been stripped out.2

The changes eroded the original recommendations of the seven member public health advisory committee appointed by NICE to develop the guideline and flew in the face of expert testimony given to the committee.

John Britton, professor of epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, who chaired the guideline committee, expressed his disappointment at the …

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