Hospitals named and shamed over drug access
Patients in England will soon be able to see if their local health authority is offering the latest approved drugs and treatments, as scorecards rating hospitals become public.
The scheme, to be rolled out before autumn, aims to create a level playing field for treatments such as IVF.
Authorities found to be denying approved treatments will be held to account.
Managers fear the system could increase bureaucracy and threaten cost savings.
The NHS needs to save £20bn by 2015, but at the same time it is expected to offer new treatments to patients.
NHS Confederation deputy chief executive David Stout said it was important to remember the NHS was facing "an unprecedented financial challenge and organisations must live within their means while providing high quality care".
"The reality is we can only afford to provide new drugs or treatments where they are cost effective and demonstrably add real patient benefits.
"In a health system with no financial growth, any new costs have to be offset by savings elsewhere.
"That is why it is crucial that NHS organisations engage their local communities and clinicians in decisions about priorities."
Currently some primary care trusts delay offering new drugs as recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), while other areas use them on patients straight away.
Under the scorecard scheme hospitals will have "no excuse not to provide the latest NICE-approved drugs and treatments", the Department of Health said.
Health Minister Paul Burstow said: "This new regime will be a catalyst for change - we are determined to eradicate variation and drive up standards for everyone."
NHS organisations will be automatically added onto lists of what drugs are available in local areas, which will be published for all to see.