Pancreatic Cancer

Don’t Throw The Baby Out With The Bathwater – Saatchi Bill

This is an addendum to the post “Is the BBC showing bias reporting on the Medical Innovation (Saatchi) Bill”.

What’s quickly become apparent is that there’s essential middle ground here, focused on patients’ rights.   The rest is due diligence to make sure proper oversight and safeguards are in place.  In other words; it’s not really whether the bill is needed it’s about how the bill is written and implemented.

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To respond to those questions of process and control, Dominic Nutt – communications director of the Saatchi Bill team (also a cancer patient who has to fight to find and get access to the best new treatments – his story) – sent me an email, including a link to the NEW draft of the bill being published by the House of Lords today.  He didn’t write this mail for public consumption and got jumpy about my sharing, but I wanted to reproduce it in full.  More to help you make your mind up, with an invitation to Mr Hill’s to respond.

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My plea: Please don’t throw a life saving baby out with the bathwater.

On Monday, 2 June 2014, Dominic Nutt <dominic.nutt@XXXXXXXXXXXX.com> wrote:

Dear Sarah

I hope all is well.  May I update you on the Medical Innovation Bill? Please forgive the slightly formal nature of this email.

We’ve been quiet over the past few weeks since the Department of Health closed their public consultation into the Bill.  We needed to look hard at the feedback we received, and take it into account as we worked on a new draft Bill.

The consultation has drawn us to four conclusions.

  1. Patients and many doctors and institutions want the Bill. We received more than 18,000 responses with very few against.
  2. Doctors are not clear on the law as it stands – some tell us they can innovate now, others say they can’t.
  3. Medical negligence lawyers are against the Bill and say it isn’t necessary.
  4. Many   have told us that for the Bill to lead to new treatments, we need to ensure that the results of innovations – positive and negative – are recorded and shared.

Our new draft Bill, which will be introduced into Parliament on Thursday (June 5) is clear, concise and clean. We are confident now that all pertinent concerns have been addressed in the latest draft, which I have attached. The intention is to give doctors clarity, confidence and certainty in law from the start.  In short, the new draft Bill makes it clear that a doctor must get the agreement of a responsible and relevantly qualified body of medical experts as well as the consent of the patient. We have added another safeguard – that the doctor must also get the agreement of her or his responsible officer.

We have added to this an explicit clause that says that a doctor doesn’t need to use the Bill – s/he can rely on the law as it stands (known as the Bolam test) if s/he prefers.

If the doctor does all this, s/he can be confident s/he will be protected – from the outset. The law currently offers doctors who innovate a defence, but this means that the doctor has to hope they will be found not guilty and in the interim they have to suffer the stress of a court case hanging over them. The idea of the Bill is to bring this process forward, so that the doctor knows in advance that they won’t be sued – as long as everyone agrees.

We are also committed to adding in a new clause at the earliest opportunity as the Bill proceeds, stating that a doctor must register all innovations, so that they can be shared with other doctors and patients.  (We did not add this into the draft Bill because initially we felt that we did not want to impose a legal duty on doctors to register innovations and add a bureaucratic hurdle to innovation. We were working with Oxford University to develop a voluntary register, outside the Bill. However, we have been persuaded that this must in fact be in the Bill itself).

The Telegraph has published two pieces today:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/saatchi-bill/10868636/Huge-response-to-Lord-Saatchis-Medical-Innovation-Bill.html and

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/saatchi-bill/10865847/Saatchi-Bill-doctors-should-embrace-innovation-not-fear-it.html

The FT and Inde also covered it:

Anyway, for now, thank you for your patience.

Best wishes

Dom