The Daily Mirror headlines today with the shocking story regarding hundreds of brain cancer patients being denied vital treatment – unless they pay.
University College Hospital London has been barred from using its £2million Gamma Knife to remove tumours free on the NHS for two years.
Desperate NHS patients are missing out on a hi-tech brain cancer cure, because a hospital has been banned from treating them for the last two years.
Hundreds of seriously ill people have been refused the pioneering £2million Gamma Knife, while an NHS England inquiry into spending on radiation therapy is carried out.
But patients who can afford to go private can access the machine, which uses technology that a source said had cured a ‘great many people’.
Last night it was claimed University College Hospital London’s Gamma Knife machine – expected to treat at least 200 NHS patients a year – was “lying idle” most of the time.
Lib Dem MP Tessa Munt blasted the “appalling” inquiry delay and called on Tory Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to act immediately.
Should Mr J. Hunt resign for letting this depravity occur?
She fumed: “Gamma Knife specialists at University College Hospital London have been banned from treating patients for two years while they waited for the review to end.
“That means hundreds of patients with severe brain tumours have been denied treatment at one of the best hospitals in the country.
“How many of them have died In that time? This can’t be allowed to continue. The Secretary of State needs to act now to put this right.”
The ban was ordered at the top hospital back in April 2013, and doctors there are still waiting for the result 22 months later.
It is still unclear when the final review will be published and Ms Munt said: “The review has become a national disgrace.
“This is not some kind of academic exercise.
“There are just seven Gamma Knife machines in the country – three in London, two in Sheffield and one each in Leeds and Bristol. The other two in the capital are in private hospitals. The UCLH facility is the only one which is a joint NHS and private venture.
The treatment costs an average of £6.000.
One insider at the hospital said: “A great many people have been cured by Gamma Knife machines. This one should be available to NHS patients”
In 2013 NHS England announced a wide ranging review of stereotactic radiosurgery and radiotherapy services in an effort to save money and centralise services.
It wants to slash the number of centres used for such treatment from 29 to fewer than 12. Centres without the gamma technology are using less advanced machines to treat patients.
The insider said: “NHS England stopped UCLH from using their Gamma Knife in April 2013 pending the results of this review which they promised would be finished by the end of the year.
“They are still unable to finalise the review because they are using it as a smoke screen to cut services and our brain specialists are rightly refusing to agree to that. Imagine what it’s like for a consultant telling an NHS patient they cannot be treated on the machine when they can actually see it next door.
“It is lying idle for much of the week. The position is scandalous.
“The number of brain tumour patients is on the increase so to try and cut back expert services is nothing short of criminal. Management at NHSE don’t seem to understand how complex the treatment of brain tumours can be. It is not uncommon for a patient to have 20 to 30 cancerous tumours in their head.
“The Gamma Knife can target them all individually and get rid of them without harming the surrounding tissue, which in your brain is pretty important. Cheaper options target the tumours as a group and therefor healthy brain tissue gets blasted. The consequence for the patient can be devastating.”
In a leaked letter, UCLH chief executive Sir Robert Naylor described some of NHS England’s behaviour as “disingenuous”. He said: “This is an issue of real significance to UCLH.
“UCLH does not support such a short term significant reduction in the number of machines delivering SRS (stereotactic radiosurgery) from 29 to a minimum of six and maximum of 12.”
“They have sat around “twiddling their Parker Pens” thinking how much money they have saved the NHS while people have been dying. The xxxxxxx’s – and Jeremy Hunt for allowing it”