The NHS Postcode Lottery describes the huge variation in the National Health Service (NHS) across the UK, with some patients being refused lifesaving drugs because of where they live.
Former soldier Mark Bannister is suffering from brain cancer and has been given just 12 months to live. Whilst NHS Lincolnshire refuses to fund the drug Avastin which could greatly prolong his life, the drug is available to patients who live just 15 miles away in Scunthorpe and in Sheffield.
Mark was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2003, and has undergone surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. He was told this year that the cancer has spread, and a ten month course of Avastin was his last hope.
Avastin is a tumour-starving drug that works by preventing blood vessels reaching the tumour. Although the drug is licensed for use in the UK, at £21,000 per patient it is not readily approved by NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence).
Instead, decisions about whether to fund drugs from the Cancer Drugs Fund are made by cancer specialists, meaning that patients in certain postcodes will miss out.
A spokesman from EMSCG said: 'We were sorry to hear about this patient’s individual circumstances. Unfortunately, we are unable to comment further on individual cases.
'Currently, Avastin is not readily approved by NICE guidance and therefore funding for treatment that falls outside of Nice sits with Cancer Drugs Fund.’
Mark’s appeal for Avastin has been refused by the Cancer Drugs Fund and East Midlands Specialist Commissioning Group. Whilst NHS East Midlands does not fund Avastin for brain cancer patients, NHS Yorkshire and the Humber do.
A recent survey showed that the NHS postcode lottery is having a drastic impact on the availability of radiotherapy to patients across the country, and GPs in certain areas are blacklisting essential drugs.
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