As from April 2013, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) will take on the role, currently managed by the Advisory Group for National Specialised Services, of assessing very high cost drugs for those suffering from rare conditions.

This will create an impartial and robust mechanism for the provision of independent advice to the NHS Commissioning Board on which drugs should be commissioned as part of its new role as the national commissioner for specialised services.

NICE will, it is reported, develop interim methods for the first few drug assessments with a view to taking forward a consultation in 2013/14 to ensure the transparency, consistency and robustness of its processes.

The Commissioning Board will be responsible for determining the number of centres and levels of funding in commissioning all specialised services, including those for people with very rare conditions. Ministers, however, will retain the power to decide which services should be commissioned.