Rachel has written to Jeremy Hunt regarding the case of her constituent, Michael Thornton, from Bramley, who was denied access to the life-extending chemotherapy drug, Docetaxel. You can read the full article from the Yorkshire Evening Post here.
Michael Thornton was invited for Docetaxel chemo at Leeds St James’s Hospital on August 24 to be told the day before that funding was not available.
He claims other patients have been affected by the lack of NHS backing, which came to light after we revealed a 41-year-old Leeds man had been given the same news last week but asked to pay £1,400 for the drug or go elsewhere.
Mr Thornton, whose advanced prostate cancer has spread to his bones, has since been offered the Docetaxel chemo for free 120 miles away in Birmingham or quoted £14,000 to have it done privately.
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTH) has said that the treatment is not “routinely funded” by NHS England despite the fact a clinical trial earlier this year found it could extend patients’ lives by nearly two years.
“The annoying thing is to be led into something and have it rescinded the day before,” he said. “They keep telling me St James’s has the gold standard and there’s no better in the world – it doesn’t seem that way to me.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been asked to look into the matter.
Following a further appointment on September 15, Mr Thornton was issued hormone therapy and discharged. He added: “I got told I was discharged from their care and it was up to my GP to re-refer me.
“I just felt like I was being told to go away and die. They were only interested because it was part of a trial.”
Mr Thornton, who retired from work in social services three years ago, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in May before doctors asked whether he would like to be involved in the Stampede trial of Docetaxel.
Leeds MP Rachel Reeves has written to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to raise Mr Thornton’s case and plans to comment on NHS England’s consultation over the future of the Cancer Drugs Fund.
Rachel said: “What is most appalling is that Michael is not alone in his experience of being denied or withdrawn treatment for life saving cancer drugs,” she said. “It is simply not acceptable for patients to pay or travel long distances in order to secure their treatment. This goes against the very values of health care, free at the point of use, the NHS was founded on.”
A spokesman for LTH has said that the trust has apologised to Mr Thornton for offering the treatment and then not delivering it, adding that it would be happy to speak to him about treatment options going forward.
An NHS England spokeswoman said it is developing a policy on Docetaxel, which will be based on the results of two studies, the second of which is yet to be published.
She said: “We’re taking a careful look at the clinical evidence – including new research to be published shortly – which will guide the decision about the circumstances in which this drug should best be used.”
The spokeswoman also explained that in such cases where a policy is being developed “routes remain open” for doctors with patients who have “exceptional” or “urgent need”.