Stephen Williams MP - working hard for Bristol West

Stephen's views on the NICE decision on Alzheimer's drugs

I share concerns regarding the decision taken by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) that it will not approve access to Alzheimer's drugs on the NHS for those suffering from mild or early stages of the disease.

For many sufferers and their carers these drugs are a lifeline and have been a real benefit. Given that there is a large amount of evidence to show that the drugs have been beneficial in the early stages of Alzheimer's it seems unjust to have to tell a patient that they can be treated, but only after their condition has worsened. The Alzheimer's Society refers to the guidance as "alarming reading". They claim that "the models that NICE use do not allow a monetary value to be put on the things that mean the most to people receiving drug treatments, such as treasured memories, so they simply ignore them.

NICE ought to demonstrate that the way they calculate cost-effectiveness does not unfairly discriminate against older people who are most likely to suffer from this terrible condition. They also need to take into account the wider benefits to society, particularly in reducing social care costs by allowing sufferers to remain independent for longer.

Sufferers of Alzheimer's are being let down by this Government in other ways. According to the Alzheimer's Society, three-quarters of people needing long term care will have Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia. However, people with dementia are being discriminated against when assessed for their eligibility for free nursing care. Their needs have frequently been assessed as personal care needs and have been means tested. The Royal Commission on Long Term Care, set up by Labour, recommended that all long-term personal care costs should be met by the state. However, the Labour Government has ignored this key finding.

The Liberal Democrats are fully committed to care for those with long term conditions like Alzheimer's and, under a Liberal Democrat government, Britain's elderly would receive free personal care, unrestricted by discriminatory criteria, as we have implemented in Scotland.

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