Sunday, 29 June 2008

Browns Lifeline: Gordon Brown promises to end NHS postcode lottery

Gordon Brown vows to end the NHS postcode lottery (And hopes it will save his skin too) Health shake-up aims to benefit PM..and the nation.

By Nigel Nelson Political Editor Nigel.Nelson@People.Co.Uk

Gordon Brown will tomorrow pledge to end the NHS postcode lottery in a desperate bid to regain public trust.

The PM will announce a health revolution with easier access to life-saving drugs to mark the 60th anniversary of the NHS.

He hopes his plan will take the spotlight off his other woes which deepened yesterday when Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander quit.

The sister of Mr Brown's International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander stood down after failing to declare donations to her leadership campaign. Mr Brown will unveil a new NHS constitution so all patients can get the expensive drugs they need instead of just happening to live in the right health area.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said: "These are seen as a lottery. There are too many variations around access to prescribed drugs.

"The constitution will make it explicit patients have the right to drugs and treatment if clinically appropriate."

Spending on drugs for cancer, heart disease and mental illness are four times higher in some places than others. Northants hospitals spent £132 per head on cancer treatment compared to only £35 in Birmingham.

Coronary patients in Lancs had £173 spent on them compared to £68 in parts of London.

There were court fights when some women were denied £30,000 courses of wonderdrug Herceptin for early stage breast cancer. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence which approves drugs must speed up the process to six months from three years.

And any patients denied them will have a quicker appeals procedure.

Mr Johnson added: "If a decision is taken not to fund a drug then your local NHS will have to explain that to you."

Patients will also get a legal right to decide which hospitals they are treated in after examining a league table of death rates. And from April they will be able to give a verdict on how good their treatment was in post-op questionnaires.

Failing hospitals could get less Government money.

Mr Brown wants to use the NHS revamp as a poll launchpad after the latest puts him 21 points behind the Tories.

There was a humiliating wipeout at the Henley by-election last week with Labour trailing fifth, behind the BNP.

And the PM faces an election battle north of the border after Glasgow East MP David Marshall announced he was quitting because of ill health.

Mr Brown yesterday said he would not face former shadow Home Secretary David Davis in a public debate about loss of freedom under Labour.

(also Sunday Mirror article here)

Friday, 20 June 2008

Woman forced to give birth in hospital corridor after being turned away from two hospitals

A pregnant woman was forced to give birth in a hospital corridor after being turned away from two hospitals when she went into labour.

Humilated new mother Emma Johnson gave birth in a hallway at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, West Sussex.

She plans to make an official complaint to NHS bosses after being turned away from two hospitals by staff who claimed there were "no beds available".

Miss Johnson and boyfriend Edward Prior, 23, called at her local hospital - the Royal Sussex in Brighton, after she went into labour at 1.15am on Tuesday, but the couple were told there were no beds.

They then went to Worthing Hosptial - but were again told there was no room, before the unconventional and uncomfortable birth at the Princess Royal - 20 miles away from the couple's Brighton home.

Miss Johnson said today : "I feel really cross about it.

"We could have gone to the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton in about 10 minutes and then we wouldn't have had all this.

"The staff were nice once we arrived but this shouldn't have happened in the first place.

"It was extra stress for me at an already difficult time."

article here

Friday, 13 June 2008

Dying to protect the NHS: a political perversion of healthcare

The title of this posting refers to a funding controversy causing outrage amongst patients, doctors, and other health care professionals in the United Kingdom: namely the decision by the government to deny free National Health Service (NHS) treatment to any patient, in England or Wales, who decides to pay for life-prolonging cancer treatment that the NHS does not provide on the grounds of cost.At first glance my starting point might seem like a parochial concern but, in reality, the experiences of the human beings at the heart of this life-and-death drama- whereby the rights and interests of those affected by illness are, for all practical purposes, at the mercy of self-interested politicians- are shared by people around the world, and in many different health care settings. So forgive me as I summarise- for non-UK readers- the background to this sad perversion of the NHS’s founding principles.

Complete article here

13 Jun, 08 by Deborah Kirklin

Sunday, 1 June 2008

NHS scandal: dying cancer victim was forced to pay

A woman dying of cancer was denied free National Health Service treatment in her final months because she had paid privately for a drug to try to prolong her life.

Linda O’Boyle was told that as she had paid for private treatment she was banned from free NHS care.

She is believed to have been the first patient to die after fighting for the right to top up NHS treatment with a privately purchased cancer medicine that the health service refused to provide.

News of her death at the age of 64 has emerged as six other patients launch a legal action to trigger a test case that they hope would force the NHS to allow them to top up their care with private drugs.

Three of the cases, involving women suffering from liver and bowel cancer, are expected to prompt a judicial review of the government’s ban on “co-payment”, as the buying of private treatment while under NHS care is called.

Some cancer drugs not yet available on the NHS can markedly increase the chance of survival. But Alan Johnson, the health secretary, claims that co-payment would create a two-tier NHS, with preferential treatment for patients who could afford the extra drugs. Last year he issued guidance to NHS trusts ordering them not to permit patients to pay for additional medicines.

This weekend Brian, O’Boyle’s husband, said he was appalled by the way she was treated. He recalled his wife as a woman with an infectious laugh who had given a lifetime of service to the NHS as an assistant occupational therapist. The couple, who had three sons and four grandchildren, lived in Billericay, Essex.

After she developed bowel cancer and began having chemotherapy, doctors told her she should boost her chances of fighting the disease by adding another drug, cetuximab. It is not routinely funded by the NHS.

When she decided to use her savings to pay for it, Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust withdrew her free treatment, including the chemotherapy drug she was receiving.

The trust said yesterday: “A patient can choose whether to continue with the treatment available under the NHS or opt to go privately for a different treatment regime. It is explained to the patient that they can either have their treatment under the NHS or privately, but not both in parallel.”

Brian O’Boyle, 74, who worked as an NHS manager for 30 years running rehabilitation services for the mentally ill, said: “We were happy to pay for this drug, cetuximab, and to give the health service what it cost to buy it and deliver the treatment, but they said they couldn’t do that. That is appalling.”

He added: “When she heard there was something that could extend her life, of course my wife jumped at it. Linda was taking lots of other drugs that she had previously been given on the NHS but \ we had to pay for all of them.

“It was stressful enough for Linda having cancer without her having all this stress on top of it.”

He has the backing of John Baron, the local Conservative MP and a former shadow health minister. “The NHS was very wrong to deny care and treatment to Linda O’Boyle. She has been penalised by an NHS system that is grossly unfair. This is morally wrong,” Baron said.

link to article

Sarah-Kate Templeton, Health Editor