Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Government response to the petition regarding baby milk

You may have been following the recent story over Croydon CCG's decision to drop prescriptions for specialised baby formula, including milk for babies with cow's milk protein allergy. If not, you can read about it here and here.

A petition was launched (see here) and the number of signatures reached 10,000 - the limit at which the Government is obliged to look at the petition and decide on an appropriate course of action. The Government response to the petition regarding prescribed baby milk formula has finally arrived. See below:

Government responded:
It is for Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), through their local prescribing policies, to decide what to limit on prescription
Croydon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has confirmed that its decision to approve recommendations to stop the prescribing of gluten-free products and baby milk were made in the context of the financial pressures the local NHS is facing and the need to make savings in the next financial year.
The CCG undertook public engagement on the proposals prior to making its decision, engaging face to face with over 300 individual local residents, patients and professionals at more than 30 sessions. A total of 346 written responses were received through the online and paper survey. The CCG advises that the response to the prescribing proposals was predominantly positive, with over 70% of respondents agreeing that the CCG should stop providing self-care medications.
Croydon CCG recognises the concerns of those people who currently receive these products on prescription and has advised it will work closely with local communities, Croydon pharmacists and GPs to support people to find affordable alternatives.
Department of Health
Click this link to view the response online:
The Petitions Committee will take a look at this petition and its response. They can press the government for action and gather evidence. If this petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the Committee will consider it for a debate.
The Committee is made up of 11 MPs, from political parties in government and in opposition. It is entirely independent of the Government. Find out more about the Committee: https://petition.parliament.uk/help#petitions-committee
The Petitions team
UK Government and Parliament
From the way the response has been worded, it does seem as though the committee of eleven MPs who have considered the merits of the petition, has actually looked into what has been happening, but unfortunately, the response is as I feared. Basically, they have reached the conclusion that it is up to Croydon CCG to do as it thinks best.

I am disappointed that in their response to the petition the MPs did not consider the limited response to Croydon's consultation (merely 346 - less than one in a thousand, of the local population), or that the wording of the consultation was inaccurate - in stating that specialized baby formulas were the same price as specialized formulas and could be found freely available in local supermarkets.

Also, I disagree with the response of the Government that around 70% were in favour of the prescription changes. Indeed 70% were in favour of changes to self-medication, but that was a different issue, in regards to changes to baby milk prescriptions, the figures are very different. If you read the consultation report, see below for a direct quote (see here for the full report), the breakdown shows a very different figure in regards to the specialized formula - which indicates that if the consultation had been worded accurately, it may well have resulted in a decidedly different outcome.

From page 123, of 332 of the report

Although the outcome, so far, is not what one would have wished, there are still things that can be done. The petition can still be signed and shared as widely as possible. If, in the next four months or so, the petition could reach the 100, 000 response point, then Government would be obliged to consider debating the issue in Parliament. If the petition reaches this stage, we would ask everyone to write to their own MP, as obviously every positive voice in Parliament would count.

Meanwhile, a Campaign group has been set up to try and counter the proposals. It is seeking to raise awareness of the issues and looking at ways in which the decision can yet be challenged. Various professional bodies, Allergy UK and The Anaphylaxis Campaign are also seeking to try and persuade Croydon CCG to reconsider their options.

The Campaign group is also working on ways of helping people in the Croydon area, who could potentially be affected. For the time being, Croydon CCG has said specialist baby milks can still be prescribed where 'clinically necessary', although they have by no means made it sound permanent. The words 'At this moment in time...' have been used, in the communications that I have seen.

If you live in the Croydon area and would like to contact your MP, or complain to the CCG, please contact the Campaign, who would like to work with you. They have also set up a website see here.

The Campaign group is also advising people to keep an eye on their local CCG, in case similar proposals are made in other areas of the UK.

Please follow the Campaign on Face Book and Twitter and share their posts to create awareness. The worry is that where one CCG leads, others may follow. We really are all in this together.

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