Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 297 - 299)




  297. Colleagues, can I welcome you to this session of the Committee. Can I welcome our witnesses today. We are very grateful for your cooperation with our inquiry and in particular for the detailed written submissions that you have sent to us. Could I ask you each briefly to introduce yourself.

  (Professor Sir Michael Rawlins) Michael Rawlins. I am Chairman of NICE but I am also still Professor of Clinical Pharmacology in Newcastle, where I am also still a general physician in addition to teaching and research.
  (Mr Dillon) I am Andrew Dillon. I am Chief Executive of NICE. My previous post was Chief Executive of St George's Hospital in London.
  (Professor Barnett) David Barnett. I chair the Appraisals Committee for the Institute. I am Professor of Clinical Pharmacology in Leicester and I have been a consultant general physician with interest in cardiovascular medicine for 25 years.

  298. Thank you very much. I think you probably have some idea of the areas that have been covered during the time that we have been taking evidence—you are certainly aware of some of the points that have been made to us. One of the major areas of discussion has been in respect of the independence of NICE. That has been discussed within our Committee, it has been discussed previously in the Commons since NICE was established. You said in your evidence to us that NICE would receive "guidance from the Secretary of State or the National Assembly of Wales on such matters as they feel fit." Can you tell us if ministers have actually felt fit to influence your decision making? And, if so, in what ways has this happened?
  (Professor Sir Michael Rawlins) No, not in the slightest. The content of all our guidance that we have received to date has been drawn up by the Institute and really by the independent members of the Appraisals Committee, the Guidelines Advisory Committee and the Guideline Development Groups, and we have had no directions or late-night phone calls from any Government Minister proposing that our guidance should be changed—and actually, by the nature of the way we do it, it would be impossible, even if it had been attempted. There is also a provision in our statutory instruments for a veto on our guidance by Ministers and they have never exercised that veto at all.

  299. So you are quite categoric about the fact that there has been no attempt to influence you in any way in this respect.
  (Professor Sir Michael Rawlins) Not at all.

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