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Cancer patients say they are being banned from receiving NHS treatment if they choose to pay for extra drugs not available through the health service.
The patients say the government is against a two-tier system beneficial to the well-off, and a leading cancer charity is now calling for action to redress the balance.
Cancer Research UK said Health Secretary Alan Johnson needed to act urgently to address the problem, and added that the issue was a complex one.
“We don’t support moves that perpetuate inequalities,” said Cancer Research UK’s director of policy and public affairs, Richard Davidson. “But we find it equally unpalatable that cancer patients who can afford to pay for life-extending treatment should be denied from doing so.
“This is a complex issue which the Government needs to resolve.”
At least one cancer sufferer, 64-year-old Linda O’Boyle, of Billericay, Essex, is known to have died after being denied free treatment because she opted for a drug only available privately.
A number of others are believed to be planning legal action in the hope of forcing the NHS to allow sufferers to pay for top-up care.
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“Ideally drugs considered effective should be available on the NHS. If there are circumstances where patients who are adequately informed by responsible clinicians wish to fund treatment I think they should be able to do so within the NHS. There are many other examples where patients pick and choose care, such as private patients within NHS hospitals, or choosing
to transfer to the NHS ICU when care needs escalating.” – Andrew Cohen, Leeds, UK
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