Monday, June 23, 2008

Cancer pair win fight with NHS for top-up drugs

Two women suffering from cancer have won legal battles for the right to pay privately for life-prolonging drugs without having their National Health Service treatment withdrawn. Several hospital trusts have also broken ranks to allow dying patients to pay immediately for the additional drugs that their doctors have said they need.

The moves are a sign that the government’s ban on so-called co-payments is beginning to crumble. In the face of a campaign led by The Sunday Times, Alan Johnson, the health secretary, has already announced a review of the policy which is due to report in October.

Melissa Worth, a solicitor at the law firm Halliwells, who is representing eight patients fighting for the right to co-pay, said: “Many more NHS trusts are finding different ways of allowing patients to pay for cancer drugs. “The government has now publicly acknowledged there is a problem and people are realising that what is most important is that patients get the best possible care.”

Andrew Haldenby, director of the think tank Reform, which includes Doctors for Reform, a group of 1,000 doctors campaigning for change, said: “This is a victory for common sense. It has become clear that many doctors have rejected the bureaucratic rules of the NHS to act in the best interests of patients. They deserve praise for looking beyond the guidance to act in a way which shows the true values of medicine. These cases also show the government had to order a review as its position is unsustainable.”

One woman, who took legal action against Weston Area Health NHS Trust in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, has been told she can pay for Avastin, the bowel and breast cancer drug, in the hospital’s private wing while receiving the remainder of her care on an NHS ward. The trust, which runs Weston General hospital, said: “This patient is having complete treatment on the NHS and has chosen to purchase separate treatment as well. Because the hospital has a unit for private patients on site, it has been agreed that the patient can receive Avastin on that unit.”

Another woman, who has bowel cancer and is taking legal action against the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London, has been advised that she will also be able to pay for Avastin without being denied NHS care. The woman’s husband, who does not wish to be named, said the trust had told them it would not object, “provided we were not getting treatment in the private [wing] and on the NHS in the same episode of care, on the same visit. Effectively, we have won the right to pay.” The Royal Marsden has declined to comment on the case.

The Velindre NHS Trust in Cardiff faces a judicial review after refusing to allow a woman to buy a cancer drug.

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, ABM University NHS Trust in Bridgend and University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust are also allowing some of their NHS patients to pay for additional drugs.

Many dying patients are still being denied the chance to spend their savings on cancer drugs, however, because their trust plans to retain the ban until the government review ends. Sue Matthews, 57, a former physiotherapist from Buckinghamshire and the wife of an NHS orthopaedic surgeon, says this could be too late for her. Matthews, a mother of two with bowel cancer, wants to be able to pay for the drugs Avastin or Erbitux without losing her NHS care. She said: “It could all be too late for me. “If the government turned round now and said, ‘We realise it has been happening in other areas of the NHS and we are prepared to accept it now’, that might be of some use to me. But he [Alan Johnson] is just trying to placate people and for those in my position it doesn’t help at all. “Some of these reviews go on for years. I will be dead by then.”

Another cancer patient, Jonathan Chapple, a retired company chairman from Kingston, southwest London, was asked by an NHS trust to pay £55,000 upfront for all of his cancer care when he asked to top up with the drugs that doctors said would give him the best chance. Like Matthews, Chapple, 69, was told by doctors that Avastin or Erbitux, which are not routinely funded by the NHS, were most likely to extend his life. His oncologist at the Royal Marsden told him that he could not continue to receive NHS care while paying for the drugs, however, and he was advised to transfer to the hospital’s private wing. Chapple said: “Having paid all my life for NHS services, to be put in this position feels immoral.” He is now travelling to a private clinic in Germany for treatment.

The Royal Marsden said: “In line with all private providers, we do ask for a deposit upfront and this is judged on the individual patient and their treatment pathway.”


Intelligent people 'less likely to believe in God'

The correlation is undoubted but the reason why is the interesting part. That more intelligent people are far more likely to be exposed to the Leftist and anti-religious attitudes that prevail in the academy is certainly a large part of the explanation. But why is the academy Leftist? It was not always so. The great universities were mostly religious organizations originally. It is the influence of Leftism. From the French revolution on, Leftists have always resented any authority other than themselves

Professor Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at Ulster University, said many more members of the "intellectual elite" considered themselves atheists than the national average. A decline in religious observance over the last century was directly linked to a rise in average intelligence, he claimed.

But the conclusions - in a paper for the academic journal Intelligence - have been branded "simplistic" by critics. Professor Lynn, who has provoked controversy in the past with research linking intelligence to race and sex, said university academics were less likely to believe in God than almost anyone else. A survey of Royal Society fellows found that only 3.3 per cent believed in God - at a time when 68.5 per cent of the general UK population described themselves as believers. A separate poll in the 90s found only seven per cent of members of the American National Academy of Sciences believed in God.

Professor Lynn said most primary school children believed in God, but as they entered adolescence - and their intelligence increased - many started to have doubts. He told Times Higher Education magazine: "Why should fewer academics believe in God than the general population? I believe it is simply a matter of the IQ. Academics have higher IQs than the general population. Several Gallup poll studies of the general population have shown that those with higher IQs tend not to believe in God." He said religious belief had declined across 137 developed nations in the 20th century at the same time as people became more intelligent.

But Professor Gordon Lynch, director of the Centre for Religion and Contemporary Society at Birkbeck College, London, said it failed to take account of a complex range of social, economic and historical factors. "Linking religious belief and intelligence in this way could reflect a dangerous trend, developing a simplistic characterisation of religion as primitive, which - while we are trying to deal with very complex issues of religious and cultural pluralism - is perhaps not the most helpful response," he said.

Dr Alistair McFadyen, senior lecturer in Christian theology at Leeds University, said the conclusion had "a slight tinge of Western cultural imperialism as well as an anti-religious sentiment".

Dr David Hardman, principal lecturer in learning development at London Metropolitan University, said: "It is very difficult to conduct true experiments that would explicate a causal relationship between IQ and religious belief. Nonetheless, there is evidence from other domains that higher levels of intelligence are associated with a greater ability - or perhaps willingness - to question and overturn strongly felt institutions."


No comments: