05 Mar 2007 Even Labour Party MPs Can’t Get Needed Health Services in Britain
A former left-wing Member of the British Parliament and a long-time backer of Britain’s government-run National Health Service (NHS) is rethinking her opinion of the NHS – because a decision it is making may cost the former MP her eyesight.
According to the London Daily Mail, former MP Alice Mahon, 69, has wet age-related macular degeneration. The drug Lucentis can stop the vision loss, and may even reverse it, but it’s expensive (12,000 British pounds, or nearly $24,000, for a year’s treatment), and needs to be taken quickly after diagnosis.
Unhappily for Mahon, at the time of her diagnosis, funding for Lucentis had yet to be approved by the government’s rationing body, so the NHS denied her a prescription. Mahon appealed the decision, but appeals take time. Nine weeks after she applied for the drug, she already had lost much of the vision in one eye. Fearing blindness, she has begun paying for her own treatment, which, by the end of January 2007, had cost her over 5,300 pounds.
The Daily Mail adds:
…The former Halifax Labour MP is now taking legal action in a move that could help an estimated 18,000 Britons who go blind each year due to wet AMD, with some denied funding by cash-strapped [primary care trusts].Mrs. Mahon said: “I have been an ardent supporter of the NHS all my life, and now feel totally let down.
“The excuses that [primary care trusts] are giving for not funding treatment are scandalously lame.
“Everyone has a right to free treatment on the NHS for a condition that results in blindness and devastates lives.
“Supporting people who are blind or partially sighted, who may need home help and suffer injuries from falls, is far more expensive than the treatment.
“The Chancellor must ensure the NHS budget is large enough to fund such a basic health care need.
“I have written personally to Gordon Brown, and not as yet received a reply.”
Gordon Brown, a Labour Party MP, is Chancellor of the Exchequer and is widely expected to become Prime Minister of Britain sometime in 2007.
(Ironically, Brown himself has been blind in one eye since the late 1960s. The eyesight in his good eye was nearly lost as well, but it was saved by an operation using what, at the time, was a new medical technique, using a new instrument.)
The Daily Mail says a New England Journal of Medicine study showed “30 per cent of patients receiving monthly injections of [Lucentis] into the affected eye had a ‘marked improvement’ in vision. It prevented vision loss in nine out of 10 patients.”