Sunday, June 08, 2008

Myopia in Whitehall Causes Blindness across the UK

I have had to tackle a few cases at work in the past couple of years when constituents have been denied treatment because of the costs of the drugs that are required. Wet Age-Related Magular Degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the UK with 20,000 sufferers. There is a drug that can help in restoring vision though it is not a full cure. Lucentis costs a fair whack though at £28,000 for a course of 14 injections.

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) have changed their mind about the drug, originally refusing to allow its use on the grounds of cost. However because of the bureaucratic way that drugs are licensed, final guidelines will not be published until the autumn. Some Primary Care Trusts have started prescibing Lucentis in anticipation. Others refuse. Some will prescribe it after you have gone blind in one eye. The universal health system has not existed in this country for many years except in the eyes of a few politicians. We have a postcode lottery.

In the light of this, I was concerned to read an article in the Sunday Times which explains how the Labour Government will not allow patients treatment on the NHS if they have paid for part of their treatment privately. One patient who had paid £9,500 for some drugs to combat their bowel cancer was billed £16,000 for previous treatment and was then denied treatment in her final months before she died.

Where else does the Government run such a policy? If people who have a Freedom Pass decide to take a taxi for a particular journey, does Ruth Kelly march round and tear up the concessionary travel pass? Does she take away your keys on the roadside when you come to the end of the toll section of the M6? What about children whose parents pay for private tutoring or extra books? Should you be denied the state pension because you work for a company that gives you a pension scheme?

The irony is that the NHS will treat addicts who have paid for drugs that make them ill, but will not treat people who just want to get better or have a better quality of life in their dying days.

Alan Johnson refuses to countenance change because he believes that it will lead to a two-tier health service. It is no accident that the National Health Service is the only one of its kind in the world. The longer that political dogma ensures that the 'jewel in the crown' is above real reform, the longer people will suffer without knowing why.


Anonymous said...

More importantly, two years ago NICE recommended a cognitive computer aided therapy entitled "Beating the Blues" for mild to moderate depression.

The company behind it, Ultrasis, have been lobbying parliament ever since. It is a proven treatment, and 90% cheaper than the drugs the GP's dole out.

Slowly, but surely, PCT's are taking it up. Legally they are obliged to offer it to anybody suffering from depression.

So if the Tories want to do something useful, they could start putting pressure on Sutton & Merton PCT who at the moment do not offer this to patients locally.

Unknown said...


Have you asked the PCT why they don't offer it yet?

Unknown said...


Have a look at the South West London & St George's Mental Health Trust website here. You'll see (halfway down on the right hand side)that they purchased 16 licences for 'Beating the Blues' last year and were due to roll it out, making it available in local libraries and elsewhere.

So it is there, you need to ask how to access it and why it is not better publicised.

Anonymous said...

Paul - thanks for that. My wife was under the weather last year, and I suggested that to her, but our GP said they use something else (can't remember what it was), but I know it wasn't NICE approved. I'll look into it.