Patient access to experimental treatments

Policy Briefing

Published 20/11/2018

Patient access to experimental treatments cover
Experimental treatments


Patients might access experimental treatments if other treatments have not worked or are not available.

  • There are several ways in which experimental treatments can be offered legally to UK patients, or patients may travel abroad to access treatments not offered in the UK.
  • The use of experimental treatments can raise ethical issues such as: difficulties in assessing efficacy and safety; ensuring fairness of access; challenges around decision making and consent; potential impacts on knowledge generation; and ensuring healthcare professionals act responsibly.
  • Particular issues are raised in the context of experimental advanced therapies (such as gene and stem cell therapies), fertility treatment ‘add-ons’, and innovation in surgery.
  • A core challenge is balancing the interests of patients in accessing experimental treatments and the need to support innovation, with ensuring there are sufficient safeguards to protect patients from potential harm(s).

Project team


Ran Svenning Berg

Research and Policy Manager

Ranveig joined the NCOB in 2012 and leads the research and policy work in our Reproduction, Parenthood and Families priority area.

She has previously held communications and researcher roles at the NCOB, managing short projects on topics including surrogacy law reform, vaccine uptake and access, medical implants, experimental treatments, and AI in healthcare and research. Before that, Ranveig worked in communications for charities focussed on gun violence prevention and human rights.