August 24, 2008

Ray’s Anger at NHS Postcode Lottery

Pensioner Ray Stuart says he's the victim of an NHS postcode lottery which could lead to the loss of his sight.

The 71-year-old has age-related macular degeneration and his friends have rallied round to pay for the drugs the NHS isn't supplying.

Unless his condition is treated, he could go blind within months.

Three vital injections of the drug Avastin could save his sight - but it isn't available on the NHS in Gloucestershire.

To Mr Stuart's despair, it is given to patients in some neighbouring counties. But as he lives in Forthampton, near Tewkesbury, he has to pay.

Now, at a cost of pounds2,000, his golfing buddies have come to his aid to get the treatment privately.

Thanks to his friends at Puckrup Hall Golf Club, near Tewkesbury, he has been able to afford the first of the pounds650-a-time injections. He hopes to have the second in September and the third in October.

He said: "Having worked all my life, I had hoped I may be able to get something back from what I had put in.

"How sad that I have to rely on the generosity of other people to finance this.

"Eyesight is something you take for granted. Then suddenly you realise you could be without it. It's upsetting."

He added that the drug itself costs pounds25, but additional costs bumped up the total bill.

Gloucestershire Primary Care Trust said it did not offer Avastin on the NHS, but did provide an altered version of it, Lucentis, to people with particularly serious AMD.

In a statement, it said it was awaiting national guidance on the drug's effectiveness.

A spokesman added: "We always consider carefully any application from a patient's doctor to fund a drug's use in individual cases where it is believed there may be exceptional circumstances.

"A patient has the right of appeal should they be unhappy with the outcome of a review panel decision."

Mr Stuart is grateful to his golfing friends, who raised pounds616 for him at an open day.

He said: "I was overwhelmed by what they did.

"I'm told AMD is incurable but this drug can prolong the sight that you're left with.

"I'm going to fight this as much as I can."

Golfing friends helping Mr Stuart include Ken Haslam, Bob Smart, Ken Parsons, Derek Helme and Paul Johnson.

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