New Treatments not available in your local Health Service…. appropriately rationed

As the different UK health services try to deny rationing, and limit access to new expensive treatments, this sort of story will become more commonplace. These treatments are “reasonably rationed” until NICE has assessed them. Despite not being approved, a Liberal culture always allows patients the choice to spend their money as they wish. The utilitarian approach says these are appropriately rationed.

‘I sold my house to fund cancer treatment in Germany’ reports BBC News 20th October 2016.

Former Emmerdale actress Leah Bracknell is to receive “cutting edge” treatment at a private clinic in Germany after receiving £50,000 in donations on a fundraising website following a terminal lung cancer diagnosis.

Ms Bracknell, who played Zoe Tate in the ITV soap from 1989 to 2005, was diagnosed a few weeks ago.

And her partner, Jez Hughes, said she wanted treatments that “are not yet available on the NHS outside of clinical trials and are very expensive”.

A terminal cancer diagnosis can mean being left with only weeks or months to live.

The NHS offers palliative care, but some patients prefer to seek treatments abroad.

However, medical professionals have concerns these may not have been approved in the UK, or even trialled, and could give some patients false hope.

Medications are licensed in the UK only if they have passed robust trials, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which approves drugs for the NHS.

Radio 5 live’s Emma Barnett programme found out about the experiences of two people who chose to pay for cancer treatment abroad.

In May, Pauline Gahan, 61, was told she had stomach cancer that had spread to her lungs and liver and there was nothing the NHS could do.

After researching her options, she decided to go to a private clinic in Germany for a form of immunotherapy.

She had to sell her house, borrow money and start fundraising to pay for the treatment.

Ms Gahan has now had eight rounds of the treatment and says it has been worth every penny.

“My son did lots of research on the clinic and knew about a previous patient who had been treated there,” she says.

“The initial treatment was £60,000, and I have now spent more than £300,000.

“When I first went to the clinic I could not walk, so we travelled to the clinic in a campervan.

“I’m not in remission yet but have just two discreet tumours left in my liver.”

Maggie Thomas was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and had a mastectomy.

During follow up tests it was found that the cancer had spread to other parts of her body and was given less than a year to live.

Her family looked into using a private clinic in Germany for “alternative” cancer treatments.

After spending around £200,000 on treatments at two private clinics Maggie died aged 46 in February 2012.

Maggie’s husband David said he was apprehensive about paying for the treatment but admitted he wanted to do what he could to make his wife better.

“My wife was desperate and kept fighting to the end. The first clinic charged us £30,000 to heat up the tumour but that didn’t work.

“We also spent more than £100,000 at another clinic but my wife didn’t live a day longer than was originally expected.

“I’m still paying off the debts now”, he said.

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About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

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