Friday, April 9, 2010

Broken promises

A year ago, Labour made a promise to victims of rare cancers that they would get the neccesary (if expensive) drugs to extend their lives.
1 year later and the true story emerges.

Daily Mail. (so to be taken with a pinch of salt)
A dying mother last night became the human face of an election battle over the NHS.
Nikki Phelps, 37, who has a rare glandular cancer, has been refused the only drug that could prolong her life.
Despite pleas from her consultant, her local NHS trust says it will not meet the £100-a-day cost. 
Labour ministers promised more than a year ago to give sufferers of rare cancers easier access to life-extending drugs.
But the rationing body NICE has since refused to approve ten such drugs. Experts say the rulings cut short up to 20,000 lives. 
Former teacher Mrs Phelps and her husband are now selling their £200,000 Kent home to give her a chance of precious extra years with her two-year-old twin boys.
Her plight has been highlighted by the Tories, who have already promised that no one in her situation will be denied a drug their specialist says they should have.
A Tory government would set aside £200million to fund the pledge. 
West Kent primary care trust refused - because NICE has not specifically approved the drug for her type of cancer.
The Labour pledge came amid rising public anger over the denial of life-prolonging rare cancer drugs which are freely available in Europe and the U.S. Ministers put pressure on NICE, which said in late 2008 it would change its rules so more drugs could be licensed. 
But since then only five have been approved and ten rejected. 
First it's a shame that this lady has become a political football particularly when so ill and being forced to sell her home to pay for a treatment to extend her life even though it is temporary.
I can also sort of see the point of NICE, though their dogmatic approach leaves them open to massive criticism, their £30,000 a year cost limit on drugs seems fine but rarely takes individual circumstances into account.
Perhaps one year when someone finally deals with the waste in the NHS properly and trims away the excess bureaucracy the cost of these drugs will more easily be met. But as both Tory and Labour seem to have ringfenced health spending rather than admit there is a serious problem I doubt it's going to happen soon. I know Cameron intends to tinker around the fringes of the NHS, but this wont be the wholesale reform that's needed, then again just wading in with an axe wont help either. Careful thought is going to be needed on reform and an apolitical approach taken to produce a good service without the attendant administration costs we have now.
A good long look at how the private sector does things wouldn't hurt either.

In the meantime I wish Mrs Phelps all the luck in the world, having recovered from cancer myself I have an idea of the devastation in her personal life she'll be going through. Though never in a position where I needed to sell all I have to pay for treatment, I know had circumstances been different we could and would have done so even for a few months extra.

0 annotations: