MONMOUTH MP David Davies has taken up the case of a cancer sufferer who has been denied access to a life-prolonging drug because she lives in Wales.
Usk resident Ann Wilkinson, aged 76, has already had a tumour removed from her bowel but the disease has spread to her liver.
Patients in England with a similar condition are being offered a new drug called bevacizumab (Avastin), which slows the spread of the cancer and can extend the life of patients by years. Yet a postcode lottery means funding decisions in Wales lie with individual health boards.
Mrs Wilkinson applied to Aneurin Bevan Health Board for funding in order to be treated with Avastin and was rejected.
“I have decided that I want to speak out about this issue because I feel very strongly indeed that patients living in Wales should be entitled to the same level of healthcare as patients in England,” said Mrs Wilkinson.
“I was 10 years-old when the National Health Service was set up by an MP from Wales and I can still remember the excitement that surrounded the news.
“Aneurin Bevan would be turning in his grave if he could see patients being forced to pay for private treatment because medicines are being withheld.”
After Mrs Wilkinson’s Individual Patient Funding Request (IPFR) was turned down, she was told the only way she would be able to receive Avastin would be to move back to England.
“We have been here for 27 years,” she said.
“Why should we move from the place we love to get this drug? I feel badly let down at being denied something that is freely available across the rest of the UK.
“My husband Allan had a heart attack last week and is in hospital. I want to stay well for as long as possible to look after him.”
Mr Davies, who has met with Mrs Wilkinson and supported her IPFR, said he would be urgently contacting the Welsh Health Minister and Interim Chief Executive of Aneurin Bevan Health Board.
“Sadly, I am coming across many examples of patients who are not getting medicines or treatment readily available across the border in England,” said Mr Davies.
“I have no issue with the NHS staff, who work incredibly hard. My criticism is of Welsh Government ministers who seem content to preside over a second-class health service. Even worse, their colleagues on the Assembly Health Committee refuse to take evidence from people with concerns.
“I recently tabled an amendment to the Government of Wales Bill which would give patients like Ann the automatic right to opt for treatment in England. Unfortunately, I have been told it will not go ahead without the backing of Welsh Assembly Members.”
Mrs Wilkinson is being supported by family friend and fellow Usk resident Julie McGowan, who has set up a petition on Change.org calling for a cancer drugs fund in Wales.
“If Ann isn’t given Avastin, her condition will deteriorate,” added Mrs McGowan.
“She and her husband will then need considerable community care and support. So on cost alone, this decision makes no sense – but of course the moral case is inarguable.
“We should not have different health services. Most people I have spoken to would far rather see a cancer care fund for Wales than a blanket policy of free prescriptions.
“Our MP David Davies has signed the petition and I very much hope that people across Wales will do the same.”
The petition can be found online at www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/cancer-drugs-for-wales.