The latest incarnation of the Saatchi Bill – a piece of legislation properly known as the Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill – has its report stage in the Commons tomorrow. I’ve written before about the problems with this Bill, which is now being taken through Parliament by Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris, and it now seems that a cross-party group of MPs will tomorrow succeed in making a well-meaning bill less dangerous.
A series of amendments from Labour, Tory, SNP, SDLP and DUP members will remove the sections of the Bill that are aimed at preventing a doctor from being sued for negligence if they decide to use an ‘innovative’ treatment for an illness, which is what had worried clinicians so much. It also rolls in clauses from another Private Member’s Bill, the Off-Patent Drugs Bill, which was talked out at its second reading by Alistair Burt because the government did not support that particular piece of legislation. But I understand that ministers largely support the provisions in the new amendments to the Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill, which means it has a reasonably good chance of succeeding in the Commons. Ministers had raised serious concerns about the implications of the Bill without the changes.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, a Labour MP who introduced the Off-Patent Drugs Bill, has tabled the amendments along with the SNP’s Dr Philippa Whitford, Tory Jo Churchill, DUP’s Jim Shannon and the SDLP’s Mark Durkan. He says he is ‘pleased to have worked on a cross-party basis on this’ and that the bill ‘will make a significant difference to patients’ as a result of the amendments. It will also make a difference, not just to those who want access to the latest drugs as they go through trials, but also to patients whose physicians have acted negligently, as they will still be able to take legal action against them.