Sunday, 28 September 2008

Professor Paul Goddard: Political correctness means dire care for patients

Labour's record on the NHS came under unprecedented attack yesterday from one of Britain's most senior doctors.

Professor Paul Goddard, a former president of the Royal Society of Medicine, accused the Government of leading the NHS into 'catastrophic meltdown'.

The award-winning professor directed particular anger at the drugs-rationing body Nice, which he accused of virtually killing patients to save money.

He said Labour's obsession with bureaucracy and political correctness had resulted in dire care for patients.

Money-saving practices, introduced to meet strict Whitehall targets, had contributed greatly to the rise of superbugs killing patients on hospital wards.

Professor Goddard said he became so disillusioned he ended his 30-year career as a consultant radiologist in disgust.

He had been head of training for ten hospitals across south west England, but felt the most effective way he could challenge the 'shocking incompetence' and mess of the NHS was to speak out.

Professor Goddard, 58, said: 'The NHS was built on the foundation of caring for the community. It was designed to help those who needed help, care for those who needed care, and treat those who needed treatment.

complete article here

Friday, 26 September 2008

Elderly hospital patients restrained with braces and bedsheets

Carers who restrained elderly hospital patients with braces and bed sheets have been blasted in a report.

The practice by untrained staff posed a "significant safety risk" to the five pensioners, investigators said.

Cops were called but found insufficient evidence to prosecute. No staff were sacked.

The report, produced after a probe by Harrow Primary Care Trust in North London, found the human rights of five patients had been breached in one month.

The Fletcher Ward at Northwick Park Hospital, where 42 per cent of patients suffer dementia, was at "minimum staffing levels" at the time.

Pct Chief Executive Dr Sarah Crowther said: "This was unacceptable. Disciplinary action has been taken and training introduced."

Gordon Lishman, of Age Concern, said: "It's horrendous that people are abused while in the care of the NHS."

article here

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Gordon Brown extends the Postcode Lottery to include the new "Illness Lottery"

Rochdale /health campaigner, Councillor Jean Ashworth, has slammed Gordon Brown’s decision to allow free prescriptions for cancer patients in England but not all patients suffering from long-term illness. The Prime Minister announced in his speech at the Labour conference that as of next year this new policy would be put in place. Currently Scotland is the only country in the UK that enjoys free prescriptions for all.

Councillor Ashworth said: “I welcome the decision for free prescriptions for cancer patients but I think Gordon Brown has missed a golden opportunity to help many others suffering from life threatening conditions. Take asthma for example. At the moment one in four children suffer from asthma in the UK and when they reach 16, many of them can’t afford to pay for their prescriptions.

"Asthma is a life threatening disease. If people do not receive the medication they need they will die. Nobody should have to pay to breathe."

Read the rest of this article here

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Cumbria Primary Care Trust condemn Michael Kennett to death to save money

A WHITEHAVEN man battling cancer has had a lifeline appeal for treatment turned down by health bosses.

Already denied NHS funding for the drug Avastin, Cumbria Primary Care Trust (PCT) has now turned Michael Kennett down again on appeal despite it being the only remaining avenue open to the 66-year-old, of Springfield Avenue, to potentially prolong his life.

Michael was denied the drug because it is not deemed to be “cost effective”. Now the family faces footing the £20,000 to £40,000 bill themselves.

Avastin can slow down tumours’ growth but the drug is not recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) for treatment of certain types of cancer.

Michael was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2001 and underwent an operation. But the cancer spread to his liver and gall bladder, requiring a further operation. Six months later the cancer was found in Michael’s lungs and he was more recently told it has returned to his liver.

The family are frustrated that they were not allowed to attend and make representation at last week’s appeal – in fact, they were only told the exact date it was taking place the day before.

Leanne Graham, Michael’s daughter, says the family have not had a fair hearing and is considering court action. They are also set to re-appeal but in the meantime Michael’s need for the drug cannot wait any longer.

“This has dragged my dad down something chronic,” said Leanne, of Cleator Moor. “It’s been 10 weeks but we can’t wait any longer.

“By some means we are going to try and fund this drug for as long as we can. They said there wasn’t enough evidence to fit the exceptional criteria. But the primary care trust won’t tell us what the exceptional criteria are.

“No one has ever had funding for this drug from Cumbria PCT,” said Leanne.

“We weren’t even allowed to attend the appeal so we don’t know what was discussed and we have not had a chance to put a case together. Some PCTs allow people to attend.

“We will re-appeal but I don’t know if it will do any good. It is very frustrating. We have had brilliant support from people locally but I can totally understand why people give up fighting – I have never felt so defeated by something ever.”

Michael’s situation, which was revealed by The Whitehaven News some weeks ago, was this week also featured in The Times.

Leanne would like people to write to the Primary Care Trust with their views on the subject and to pledge their support for people to be given a fair hearing.

A spokesman for Cumbria Primary Care Trust said this week: “We cannot comment on individual cases for reasons of confidentially but appreciate that for patients, families, carers and the public the decision over the use of different drugs can be highly emotional.

“NHS Cumbria operates under a framework set by the Department of Health. The trust has to take account of guidance from NICE and other professional advisory bodies when making decisions about which drugs to fund.

“In order to assess each treatment fairly, NICE has to look at the benefit of these treatments and at the effectiveness of getting this benefit in the long-term.

“NICE, the Scottish Medicines Consortium and both of the local NHS cancer networks which cover Cumbria do not recommend the use of Avastin for specific types of cancer.”

Read this sickening article here

Monday, 22 September 2008

Leicester Royal Infirmary's catalogue of deadly blunders killed former member of staff

Hospital staff have apologised for errors in treating a dying patient – including thinking she was another woman of the same name.

Lynda Greatorex, from Wigston, died aged 59 at Leicester Royal Infirmary after being admitted with heart problems.

The grandmother had been a medical secretary at the hospital for nine years before retiring a year before her death.

Her daughter, Gaynor, also works at the hospital and said she was appalled by the distress her mother suffered in the run-up to her death, on April 19, from heart failure.

Gaynor, of Anstey Lane, Leicester, said the worst error was that doctors used another woman's file while treating her mother, which meant they went to the wrong GP to inquire about her medical records.

She said her mother was also denied heart drugs early in her treatment and that medical staff left her unattended and failed to notice when her blood sugar levels became dangerously low.

She should have been checked every two hours, but was not seen from 8pm on April 16 until 7am the next day.

Gaynor said: "They never asked her details properly so they were always confusing her with another woman with the same name.

"She was put in a side room and left with minimal nursing contact. Every day on the ward there were errors and she suffered because of them.

"It's not about compensation for me and I don't claim my mum would have lived much longer if treatment had been better.

"But she worked for the hospital for nine years and to repay her with such dismal treatment was terrible.

"It's a shame the last week of her life had to be so traumatic."

Gaynor made an official complaint to the hospital in July and has received an apology.

In a statement, a hospital spokesman said: "An investigation was undertaken and a written response provided.

"We deeply regret Miss Greatorex had to raise concerns at such a difficult time.

"We have previously extended an invitation to Miss Greatorex to meet with senior staff and would extend that invitation once again should she have continuing concerns."

Sunday, 21 September 2008

NHS complaints system 'pointless'

More than two thirds of patients believe the NHS complaints procedure is pointless, a survey said.

The latest Patients Association (PA) report, in which the survey was published, has described the NHS complaints system as "cumbersome, variable and takes too long."

Of the patients polled, 69% said they had wanted to complain about the healthcare they had received in the last five years.

For those who complained, 29% described the process as "totally pointless" and only 2% said the experience had been "very useful".

More than three quarters (81%) believe that there is not a culture of openness in the NHS when errors occur and that staff are not encouraged to report mistakes.

The PA report concluded: "While patients will always accept that errors will occur in any health service, what they will not accept is the fact that staff are not open about admitting such errors occur."

On the matter of recent MRSA outbreaks and other healthcare acquired infections 47% of patients pointed the finger of blame at the NHS trust managers.

Both nurses and cleaning staff were blamed by 16% of respondents, whilst only 10% thought doctors were responsible.

Three quarters (75%) of respondents believe trust in doctors and nurses has decreased compared to five years ago.

As a result, 96% said they believed patients question the actions of doctors and nurses more than they used to half a decade ago.

article here

Dying woman spent last days fighting for cancer drugs

Next month, the Government will publish its review of NHS policy on cancer drugs, determining whether the health service will pay towards the care of patients who pay for medications the state refuses to fund. Ministers were forced to examine the issue after a public outcry over the death of Linda O'Boyle, who was denied free NHS care after paying for a life-extending bowel cancer drug. Since then, the whole system of drug rationing has become the subject of intense public debate.

Sarah Perez, who died in June aged 40, five days before the review was announced, was also denied drugs which could have extended her life. Campaigners believe her story is one of the "most inhumane" examples of the way the health service bureaucracy takes decisions about life and death.

Sarah Jane Perez was 33-years-old and just back from her honeymoon with her husband James when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2001.

Within a year, her hopes of having a family had been dashed. A hysterectomy was followed by an operation on her bowel, and, a year later, a stem cell transplant when she was diagnosed with leukaemia.

For six years she underwent repeated courses of chemotherapy and treatment as tumours spread to her liver. Mrs Perez, from Enfield in North London, tried to live as normal a life as possible, running a jewellery business she had set up in London's Hatton Garden before she fell ill.

But by January of this year, her cancer had spread further. Mrs Perez' consultant said there was only one hope left to secure her some extra time; a drug called cetuximab, shown to have given patients an average of four extra months of life in cases which responded to treatment.

The previous year, the NHS rationing body, the National Insitute of Health and Clinical Excellence, had ruled against widespread use of the drug, which it said was not "cost effective" at £700 a week. However, primary care trusts are not allowed to institute blanket bans on any treatment, and Mrs Perez's consultant hoped to secure the treatment for her as an exceptional case, particularly given his patient's youthful age which meant that the cancer was progressing aggressively, but might also respond more quickly to treatment.

When Enfield PCT refused to fund the drug, branded Erbitux, Mrs Perez asked to invoke her right to appeal against the decision, setting out why she should be treated under exceptional circumstances. Instead, in March, she was told that the PCT had already held the appeal, maintaining its original decision, despite the fact neither she nor her consultant had been given the chance to submit any evidence stating her case.

Read the rest of this shocking article here

Friday, 19 September 2008

Ambulances running late for emergencies

RESPONSE times to emergencies in Ledbury and Colwall are so poor the West Midlands Ambulance Service has been called to account by Herefordshire Council.

With other areas of the county faring better, the situation is being called “a postcode lottery”.

Category A emergencies are those classed as immediately life threatening.

The official target is for ambulances to get to 75 per cent of these in eight minutes. Last month, ambulances got to 89.5 per cent of Category A emergencies in Bromyard within eight minutes. The figure for the Colwall area was just 20 per cent.

The Ledbury figures were 72.7 per cent in August, 57.9 per cent in July, 57.1 per cent in June and 50 per cent in May. The statistics will be examined at a health scrutiny committee meeting at the council chambers in Brockington, Hereford, on Tuesday at 10am. All are welcome to speak at the meeting.

Committee chairman and Ledbury councillor Kay Swinburne said: “The ambulance service will be genuinely scrutinised.

“They have been briefed that they will need to justify not having more vehicles available here and they will be asked to explain the data.

“They can tell me they’ve had problems with Colwall Bridge but the data is appalling.”

Coun Peter Watts, who also represents Ledbury, said: “It’s a postcode lottery and the ambulance service needs to raise its game.”

The situation has added urgency following the death in July of Ledbury pensioner Alfred ‘Pip’ Parry.

He had to wait for an ambulance for at least 17 minutes, although his family say it was a lot longer. Mr Watts said: “That recent tragic occurence made people aware of how vulnerable they could be.”

Chris Kowalik of West Midlands Ambulance service, said: “We always have and always will send the nearest available resource to an emergency call.

“However, it is a fact of life that in rural areas it will take longer for ambulance crews to get to a patient.”

article here

NHS HITS TARGET TO CUT MRSA, BUT C.DIFF IS SOARING

OFFICIAL figures show the target to cut cases of MRSA has been reached – but almost 10 people a day are still being struck down with the hospital superbug, Tories said last night.

They also criticised the Government for its failure to tackle rates of Clostridium difficile, another infection that has spiralled.

Over the last four years the number of people struck down with MRSA in English hospitals has fallen from almost 2,000 to 836 per quarter.

The achievement was yesterday hailed by the Prime Minister as testament to the hard work of NHS staff.

But critics immediately accused Gordon Brown of patting himself on the back as rates of the far more common killer bug C.diff were on the rise.

In a break with tradition the latest figures for C.diff were not released, leading the Tories to accuse the Government of only issuing positive data.

Andrew Lansley, shadow health secretary, said: “It is a disgrace that there have been more than 800 cases of MRSA in our hospitals in just three months.

“Labour have let down patients by caring more about spin than doing what it takes to root out infections.

“It’s telling that they changed the publication date of MRSA statistics for political gain, that they only met their target by moving the goalposts and that the best they could come up with have been gimmicks like Gordon Brown’s deep cleaning programme.”

The most recent figures for rates of C.diff showed a six per cent increase in hospital infections, hitting 10,500 in the first three months of the year.

article here

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Patient who fought for life-saving transplant has died, after being told his life-saving treatment was not cost effective

Published Date: 18 September 2008
By Laura Rands

A West Hallam leukaemia patient who fought the NHS for a life-saving bone marrow transplant has died.

Peter Lord was denied the £70,000 stem cell transplant at the end of last year because of where he lived. He moved in with his sister in Nottingham and the treatment was agreed.

The 52-year-old, who lived on Scargill Walk, underwent the transplant at Nottingham City Hospital in January with a 50/50 chance of it extending his life. But four months later he was left devastated after it failed. He had aggressive chemotherapy treatment in June in a last attempt to keep him alive, but it failed.

Mr Lord, a design engineer, was originally denied potentially live-saving treatment for his leukaemia as his local health authority, Derbyshire County Primary Care Trust, said it was not cost effective.

He appealed against the decision but was turned down and moved into his sister's house to beat the 'postcode lottery' of health funding. Derbyshire PCT and Nottingham University Hospitals Trust then came to an agreement that the operation should go ahead.

When Derbyshire PCT denied him the treatment, Mr Lord told the Advertiser: "If I don't get funding before the leukaemia, I die. I would move to save my life."

Mr Lord was first diagnosed with leukaemia after a blood test. After six months of chemotherapy, he spent 13 months at work in remission before the disease returned in October last year, and had to have a bone marrow transplant.

Peter Lord died at Nottingham City Hospital on Tuesday and his funeral is being held this Friday at Bramcote Crematorium, Nottingham at 2.45pm.

article here

Friday, 12 September 2008

NHS bill from solicitors doubles

The NHS bill to pay solicitors acting for patients in compensation claims has more than doubled in four years.

The annual bill in England now tops £90m - a 122% increase in four years, despite the fact the number of cases has remained similar.

The NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) told the BBC the rise was due to an increase in no win, no fee claims, which has led to some solicitors doubling their rates to £600 an hour.

About half of the cases the NHSLA sees now are brought by solicitors on a no win, no fee basis as opposed to under a fifth in 2000.

Chief executive Steve Walker said the trend had been caused by the tightening eligibility criteria for legal aid. Only children or those cases deemed in the public interest get state funding.

He told the BBC: "Solicitors are not doing anything illegal, but it is pretty unattractive that these fees are being charged. There is no reason why they should be vastly different from what we pay our own legal teams, but they are.

"Their argument is that they have a higher mark up because there is a risk they will end up with nothing, but in reality they cherry-pick the cases they are most likely to win."

Four years ago, the NHS paid out £40.9m to the solicitors of patients in costs under the clinical negligence scheme for trusts, but by 2007/08 that had risen to £90.7m. In comparison, the fees charged by the NHS's own lawyers was £29.3m in 2003/04, but had only risen by 48% to £43.3m last year. The number of cases resolved each year has stayed at around 6,000.

Jonathan Fielden, chairman of the British Medical Association's consultants committee, criticised the solicitors.

"These organisations are encouraging a compensation culture and making a lot of money out of it. All the money that is going to lawyers is money being taken away from patient care. Obviously there is a need for the system, it is just that solicitors should do more to keep their costs in order like the NHS is doing."

-----

Can't the NHS just be less negligent in the first place and stop treating their patients so appallingly so that compensation claims wouldn't be necessary? If you didn't need to pay compensation for mistreating your patients then you'd have more money to spend on saving lives instead of letting them die. It works both ways.

Cancer drugs only given to those 'who make the most noise'

Expensive cancer drugs are only available to patients who "make the most noise" under a "patently unfair" system, a leading cancer doctor has warned.

By Kate Devlin, Medical Correspondent
Last Updated: 2:25PM BST 11 Sep 2008

Unless sufferers are allowed to buy the medication without losing the rest of their NHS care a "black market" in the drugs will open up, Professor Karol Sikora told Mike Richards, the Government's cancer Tsar, who is carrying out a review into controversial "top up" payments.

Support for top ups has been echoed by the King's Fund, the influential think tank, which said that the current system was "untenable".

The Government ordered Mr Richard's review following widespread outrage over cases of cancer sufferers who were charged as private patients after they bought potentially life extending drugs.

However, doctors have expressed concern that allowing "top ups" could lead to a two-tier NHS, where some patients get drugs which others cannot afford.

During a debate designed to inform Mr Richard's review, Prof Sikora, medical director of CancerPartnersUK, said that there was already an unfair system when it came to expensive cancer drugs: "If you look at the cases it seems that if you make a fuss you tend to get.

"If you don't make a fuss then you don't get.

"It is patently unfair that if you make a noise then you will get these drugs."

He went on: "If we leave the status quo, if we leave this typical British muddle, then an underground market (in these drugs) will develop."

He also called on the Government to "abolish" the Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) decision panels, which critics claim are leading to a "post code lottery" in cancer care.

NHS bosses can refuse to provide drugs if they have been rejected as too expensive by the Government's drugs watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice).

If a drug has yet to be assessed by Nice then local PCTs can choose to give the drug in what it deems "exceptional" circumstances.

The call comes just 24 hours after a patient won access to a £4,000-a-course blood cancer drug after taking his local PCT to court.

Colin Ross, 55, was given just two months to live if he did not receive the drug, Revlimid.

The King's Fund, which hosted the debate, described the current system as "untenable" and said that under "certain circumstances" patients should be able to pay for their own drugs without losing the rest of their NHS care.

However, the Fund believes that those patients should also pay the extra costs associated with the drugs, such as the price of administering them, so that other NHS patients did not lose out.

Mr Richard's review is expected to report sometime in October.

Last month the Telegraph revealed that Nice was drawing up plans to provide patients with independent medical advice on drugs, including those which it had deemed too expensive, which could be offered to patients if a U-turn on top ups is announced.

The Conservatives have said that they are against introducing new charges into the NHS and have proposed a system where drug companies would be paid only if treatments work.

Monday, 8 September 2008

NHS Fails to Diagnose 500 000 Brits with Diabetes

Half a million Brits are unaware that they are living with Type 2 diabetes, due to the failure of the NHS, claims a new study.

According to the charity Diabetes UK more than 500, 000 people in England are unknowingly living with Type 2 diabetes- leaving them at risk of heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and amputations.

The research claims that NHS services in England are failing to diagnose the condition which can go undetected up to a staggering 12 years.

Unfortunately the quality and quantity for diagnosis of type 2 diabetes across the UK is not equal, with some regions across the UK receiving better diagnoses than others, says the study. For example figures reveal that there is around 100 percent diagnosis for the people of Birmingham and just 50 percent for those in London- with regions including Kensington, Chelsea, Westminster and Camden having the worse detection rates.

“Some PCTs (Primary Care Trusts) have done an excellent job in diagnosing Type 2 diabetes,” says Douglas Smallwood, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK.

“It is extremely worrying that hundreds of thousands of people in other areas are going about their daily lives unaware they have a condition that puts them at greater risk of devastating complications.”

Smallwood adds that early identification is key for those with Type 2 diabetes but unfortunately by the time half a million Brits are finally diagnosed with having the condition, most will already show signs of complications.

The Department of Health National Service Framework for Diabetes made it a priority to improve Type 2 diabetes diagnosis in England back in 2001. However the charity believes barely a dent has been made in the detection process of type 2 diabetes. What’s more 1 in 3 PCTs do not even have a specific strategy for preventing the condition.

The charity is warning specialists that all communities must be examined for Type 2 diabetes, especially those in deprived communities who are 2.5 times more likely to have diabetes. Those who do not have regular access to health services must also be reached by the VRAM programme- responsible for Type 2 diabetes diagnosis.

Those at risk of diabetes are those with a large waist, people aged over 40 (or over 25 for people of Black or South Asian origin), those who are overweight and lastly individuals with a family history of the condition.

For more information on diabetes go to: Information on Diabetes

article here

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Sky's health correspondent Thomas Moore gives you an introduction to the virtual hospital

click image to activate video

Exclusive: Sky News has uncovered evidence that NHS staff are coming under political pressure to spin the headlines


We have obtained a letter, written by a senior representative of the Department of Health, which strongly criticises England's largest primary care trust for failing to "manage" the media.

North Yorkshire and York PCT had been singled out for its handling of so-called exceptional cases, in which patients ask to be treated with medicines that have yet to be approved for use on the NHS.

Newspapers highlighted cancer patients who had been denied expensive new drugs.

Yorkshire and Humber Strategic Health Authority, which ensures Department of Health policy is followed in the region, wrote to the PCTs chief executive demanding urgent action.

"This has resulted in damage to the reputation of the NHS. The PCT needs to look at how the media messages can be managed more effectively... to stem the national harm to the NHS profile that this constant publicity is creating."

But Dr Peter Brambleby, the director of public health for the PCT, is so angry about the letter that he has blown the whistle.

Speaking exclusively to Sky News, he said: "It is our general responsibility to protect the NHS brand, but we shouldn't be driven as a first consideration by what will this look like in the headlines in the local newspaper.

"Our first consideration has to be the health of the population, the evidence base behind which the decision is going to be made, and showing that we're responsible stewards of public funds. That's our job and that's what protects the NHS brand."

He said politicians should keep clear of clinical decisions over patients' treatment.

"The easy way out of managing adverse headlines in the short term is to simple to say yes to every request that has caught the media attention. But I don't think for a moment that any member of the public would recognise that as a legitimate criterion for prioritising funding," he said.

His comments are hugely embarrassing for the Department of Health, which has insisted that local health managers are free to make their own decisions over how they spend money for local patients.

The Tories said the Department of Health's bureaucrats were wrong to send the letter. Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley MP said they missed the point.

"Everybody else in Europe seems to be able to get access to these drugs, but we don't. That's what I want to see them working on. How they can ensure that primary care trusts are using their resources to ensure patients get the treatment they need, not trying to cover up the bad stories when they don't."

Some of the negative headlines involved the Velcade Three. Jacky Pickles, Janice Wrigglesworth and Marie Morton all have multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer.

They have campaigned for treatment with Velcade, and encourage patients who have been denied the drug to go to the papers.

They make no apology for embarrassing the PCT.

Jacky Pickles said: "If someone says to you you can be quiet and die, or you can challenge and maybe live longer...you want to see your children grow up, don't you?

"We've all got children and we want to see them grow up. You'd challenge anybody to see your children grow up."

Even the government's cancer csar is critical of the local variations in access to new medicines. He says PCTs don't have the expertise to judge complex drugs. He wants regional panels of specialists to take over the role.

"I am extremely keen that there is equal access to treatment across the whole of the NHS, because that I believe is one of the founding principles of the NHS," he said.

The Department of Health turned down our request for an interview.

The Strategic Health Authority said all PCTs must be open and transparent about their procedures and explain their decisions: "There has never been any question of political interference in any decision," it said.

article here

Revealed: NHS cash lottery

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Postcode lottery fight for cancer sufferer

By Emily-Ann Elliott

A cancer sufferer has launched a legal battle against a postcode lottery that threatens to shorten his life.

Colin Ross, 55, believes he would be given a life-prolonging drug if he lived just 12 miles from his home.

A barrister for Mr Ross told a judge it was an "end of road" legal challenge that could mean death in the next couple of months if he fails or his life being extended by up to three years if he wins.

Mr Ross was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood cells, in May 2004.

He has been told by doctors that unless he is given Revlimid he will not survive beyond the autumn.

It would cost £5,000 per course of Revlimid and his medical team have requested funding for an initial three to four courses.

But in March West Sussex Primary Care Trust refused to fund the drug, even though leading cancer specialist Professor Karol Sikora has said he is “eminently suitable” for treatment.

Richard Clayton QC, representing Mr Ross, told Judge Simon Grenfell at London's High Court, the trust’s decision was “irrational” and it had erred in its estimate of the cost effectiveness of Revlimid.

He said: “This application for this drug is the end of the road for him.

“Either he gets the drug and is able to have life-prolonging treatment, or he doesn’t and treatment ceases, with inevitable consequences.”

He told the court that in a recent survey, 60% of the applications made for exceptional funding with the drug in England and Scotland had succeeded but the trust did not consider Mr Ross’ case was exceptional.

He said the case raised the “random and disquieting” problem of treatment depending on a patient’s postcode.

Arriving at court Mr Ross, from Horsham, described how he had become the victim of an “East-West” divide a postcode lottery between East Sussex and West Sussex.

He said he had spoken to another cancer patient at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London four weeks ago.

He said: “We got chatting and the subject of Revlimid came up.

“She told me she had applied for the same drug earlier this year and had been put on it.

“I live in West Sussex, and she lives 12 miles down the road in East Sussex.

“She was astonished when I told her I had been refused. How can it be that, in such a little distance, one can have it and one cannot?

“It should not be like that. It is not right that I should have to go to these lengths to get such an important, life-extending drug.”

Mr Ross was accompanied to court by his long-term companion Wendy Forbes-Newbegin, 52.

She said: “The mental anguish he has been going through is nothing short of appalling.

“The stress of his illness is bad enough, but to have to fight for this treatment has just been disgusting.

“I have been suffering from breast cancer, and he was supposed to be looking after me.”

Mr Ross, who has two children and four grandchildren, said: “If I don’t win and I get no further treatment I won’t be here for Christmas, it is as simple as that.”

He acknowledged that Revlimid is not a cheap drug.

But he expressed his frustration that “the Royal Marsden are sitting there with the drug in their fridges”.

Mr Ross has so far had six complete courses of chemotherapy and also received stem cell treatment at the Royal Marsden.

He responded well to the two other drugs currently being prescribed on the NHS for myeloma patients, Thalidomide and Velcade, but was forced to stop taking them because of painful side effects.

However, while Revlimid is readily available to patients across Europe and in the US, it has not yet been granted approval by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) and so is currently only being provided by some Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) on the NHS in exceptional circumstances.

Mr Clayton accused the trust of misunderstanding the evidence of the survival benefits of Revlimid.

He said the trust had failed to take into account “the slim but important chance” that the drug could prolong Mr Ross's life by more than a few months and it had made a fundamental error “when balancing clinical efficacy and cost”.

Martin Forde QC, appearing for the trust, said its officials had “every sympathy” for Mr Ross’s predicament.

The trust had, to some extent, been roundly criticised over its decision that it would not be cost-effective to fund Mr Ross’s treatment.

But it was having to make “agonising decisions” and considered some 600 similar cases every year.

It was doing its level best to use limited NHS funds “in the most efficient manner to benefit the largest number of patients”.

In Mr Ross’s case, the trust did not accept that it had adopted an irrational funding policy - “nor do we accept the policy was implemented in the course of this agonising decision in a perverse or irrational manner”.

The hearing continues on Monday.

The judge indicated that he hopes to give his ruling by the middle of next week.

article here