Caerwent man paid for cancer op as red tape unbearable
11:20am Friday 14th September 2012 in News
FACED with an uncertain wait to find out if the NHS in Wales would fund the cutting- edge cancer treatment he wanted in England, David John decided to pay for it himself.
The 56-year-old, from Caerwent, forked out more than £13,000 for robotic keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery in Bristol, to remove his diseased prostate gland.
Newly diagnosed with cancer, he felt he could not wait several weeks for an individual patient funding request to be made to, and considered by, his health board.
But had he lived a few miles away over the Severn, the “bureaucracy” he says he faced here would not have been an issue, as the surgery is more readily available.
Eighteen NHS trusts in England provide it.
There is no blanket refusal of requests by Welsh patients for such surgery, in this case a prostatectomy.
The robotic technique is also known as Da Vinci surgery.
But neither is there a guarantee that the NHS in Wales will fund all patients for the surgery at an English hospital - and with no robotic surgery available in Wales, Mr John says that is “terribly unfair” on patients in Wales.
“I didn’t much fancy the treatment options I was presented with in Wales, which were open surgery, radiotherapy, and brachytherapy.
There are a lot of potential after-effects.
“I read about robotic surgery and was convinced it offered me a better experience, with the least potential after-effects. But I got the impression funding would be a stumbling block.
“It’s iniquitous because if I lived five or six miles further east in England, I wouldn’t have to jump through so many bureaucratic hoops.
“I’m lucky. I could afford to have my operation privately, but there will be many who can’t. The NHS should be about fair treatment for everyone.”
Robotic surgery for treatment of prostate cancer is being evaluated through the UK Health Technology Assessment Programme, with findings due later this year.
“Prostate cancer patients in Wales have access to a range of well-established and effective treatments,”
said a Welsh Government spokesman.
“Where a patient needs a treatment not normally provided by the NHS in Wales, they can make an Individual Patient Funding Request application to their health board, via their doctor.”