Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cancer Mum's New Hope for More Time; Change to Rule That She Funds Drug Herself

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cancer Mum's New Hope for More Time; Change to Rule That She Funds Drug Herself

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Warburton

A NORTH couple who have paid thousands of pounds for a life-enhancing cancer treatment have welcomed a new NHS constitution which plans to end the postcode lottery of drug provision.

Mother-of-one Karen Gault is fighting terminal bowel cancer and has paid for all of her medical treatment privately after opting to fund the drug Avastin. The drug, which costs pounds 1,200 a fortnight, prolongs her life and gives her precious time with her three-year-old daughter Grace.

But because the treatment she is undergoing is not seen as cost-effective by health guidance body the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (Nice), NHS North of Tyne will not provide it and she has not been deemed as an exceptional case.

Because she is paying for part of her treatment privately it means, under current Whitehall guidelines, that she must pay for the rest of it too.

The decision means the 44-year-old, from Jesmond, Newcastle, is not eligible to receive even blood tests or scans on the NHS.

But today Health Secretary Alan Johnson is expected to unveil a draft document that will enshrine a universal right to approved treatments if clinically appropriate.

Mrs Gault last night said: "I'm totally pleased about the news. Initially I was very pragmatic, because I thought there would only be so much money.

"But if we need more money in the NHS to treat serious life-threatening conditions, then it should be available.

"If there is such a problem that a doctor recommends a drug, but unfortunately you cannot afford to get it, then that is wrong.

"You shouldn't be diagnosed with the fever and on the way to the hospital be worrying if you can afford to be ill.

"But I totally support this new move.

I'm chuffed to bits about the new announcement and I'm glad the politicians and those responsible are taking it seri ously."

Wide variations in the availability of drugs between local health authorities have been one of the most consistent complaints from patients in recent years.

The problem arises because Nice lets trusts choose which treatments to fund.

This means patients in some parts of the country have access to free drugs for cancer treatment while others must fund the drugs themselves. …

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