`Ordinary People' Give Medicine Verdicts; CLINICAL GUIDANCE: Institute Charged with Balancing Costs and Effectiveness of Drugs Seeks Input

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Byline: MADELEINE BRINDLEY Health Correspondent

THE organisation charged with deciding if patients have access to breakthrough drugs and treatment will turn to ``common sense'' people for help.

A recruitment campaign to find 30 ``ordinary people'' to advise the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) starts today.

The decision to set up a Citizens Council follows the publication of the Kennedy report into the Bristol Inquiry which highlighted the importance of involving the public in NHS decision-making.

But it is also thought the move will temper criticism that Nice is more concerned with lowering the NHS drug bill than improving treatment for patients.

The move has been welcomed by campaigners but they have questioned whether Nice will actually listen to its appointed public advisors or if it will just pay lip service to theidea of public involvement. Launching the initiative, Nice chairman Prof Sir Michael Rawlins said, ``The involvement of patients and carers in Nice's decision-making has always been extremely important but it has been a long-term aim of ours to involve the wider public in our work.

``The establishment of a Citizens Council is designed to provide a backdrop of public opinion against which we and the independent groups that advise us can make their recommendations.''

Nice was set up in 1999 and charged with ending the postcode lottery that saw people in parts of the country denied life-saving treatments because of where they live. …