A CANCER patient from Usk met with the Prime Minister today and presented a petition of nearly 100,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street calling for equal access to cancer treatments in Wales.
Ann Wilkinson and fellow supporters from the One Voice for Wales campaign handed over the petition to the UK Government alongside Monmouth MP David Davies.
The same petition was delivered to Welsh Assembly Members on the steps of the Senedd in Cardiff Bay earlier this month. Health Minister Mark Drakeford responded by telling AMs the Welsh Government has “no intention” of creating a cancer drugs fund.
Such a fund was set up in England in 2010 and is currently worth £280m a year.
Mrs Wilkinson, aged 76, has been diagnosed with bowel cancer. She fought to obtain the life-prologing drug Avastin after an initial funding application was refused by Aneurin Bevan Health Board.
Her friend and local author Julie McGowan decided to start a campaign to highlight the issue of patients being denied access to specialist cancer drugs in Wales that others in England are receiving.
“I have lived in Wales for 28 years with my husband Allan after moving from Yorkshire,” said Mrs Wilkinson.
“We were basically told we would have to go back to Yorkshire for me to get this treatment, which can’t be right. Sadly, many others are in the same position.
“When we delivered the petition to the Senedd some weeks ago, the Welsh Health Minister refused to meet us and we simply weren’t listened to. I was therefore delighted that the Prime Minister took the trouble to listen to our concerns.
“The Welsh Government needs to see what is being done in England and offer the same.”
Mrs McGowan stressed the campaign was not criticising nurses and oncologists, but sought to raise awareness of the “postcode lottery” faced by cancer sufferers.
“The Prime Minister rightly paid tribute to NHS staff in Wales,” she said.
“We fully agree that the second class treatment we are getting is a direct result of the political decisions being taken in Cardiff and not because of a lack of commitment from health workers, many of whom have urged us to keep campaigning.
“We are very grateful to the Prime Minister for listening and to our MP David Davies for arranging this.”
Outside the gates to Downing Street, a number of Welsh patients gathered to support the petition. Some had been forced to move to England to get treatment that is not available in Wales.
Addressing the campaigners, David Davies MP said “fighting for our Welsh NHS” remained one of his top priorities.
“It is appalling that in Wales we have longer waiting lists, worse ambulance response times and no access to a cancer drugs fund,” he added.
“As chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee, I am conducting an inquiry into the differences in cross-border healthcare. I can assure you that this campaign will continue until our NHS offers Welsh patients the same standards as English patients.”