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On 24 June 2015 Chris Heaton-Harris presented the Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill (Bill 8 2015-16) having come second in the Private Members’ Bill ballot.

The Bill aims to promote access to innovative medical treatments and contains two main provisions:

  • to enable the creation of a database of innovative medical treatments; and
  • to set out steps which doctors can take in advance of carrying out an innovative treatment, to show that they are acting responsibly (and therefore reduce the risk that they may be judged to have acted negligently for departing from established treatments).

The Bill received its Commons Second Reading on 16 October 2015. On 3 November 2015 the Commons agreed a Money resolution, on division, in relation to the additional expenditure required to set up a new database of innovative treatments. A number of amendments were tabled at the Committee stage on 16 December 2015 but these were either withdrawn or negatived on division. The Bill is due to have its Commons Report Stage on Friday 29 January 2016.

This Commons Library briefing provides information on the main provisions of the Bill and on the development of previous legislation on medical innovation (the Bill builds upon provisions in Lord Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill 2014-15).

The Department of Health has prepared Explanatory Notes for the Bill, with the consent of Chris Heaton-Harris, which provide further detail on each part of the Bill, and about the impact of the Bill on existing law.

The Bill defines innovative medical treatment as treatment that involves a departure from the existing range of accepted medical treatments for a condition. The Bill would not apply to the use of treatments in research, rather it aims to support innovation in the treatment of individual patients while preserving the existing common law safeguards for patients.

The Government supports the objectives of the Bill, which are similar to those of the Medical Innovation Bill introduced by Lord Saatchi in the House of Lords (in the current session, and in previous sessions). The main difference between the two Bills is the addition of a separate clause in the Chris Heaton-Harris Bill enabling the establishment of a database of innovative treatment. The Bill extends to England and Wales, apart from the provisions relating to the database, which only apply in England.

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