'Unfair' NHS ruling could spell 'death'
PUBLISHED: 10:00 09 August 2016
A North Somerset charity is campaigning for the NHS to reverse a 'manifestly unfair' decision to ration the number of people who can receive newly-approved treatment for hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is an infectious disease which primarily affects the liver and is often transmitted through blood-to-blood contact. This contact is often associated with intravenous drug use.
New drugs designed to treat the illness are now available, yet the NHS has imposed a cap on the number of people hospital trusts are allowed to treat each year.
Addaction, a leading drug and alcohol charity based in Weston, has criticised a ruling it says could prove ‘a death sentence’ for sufferers.
Simon Antrobus, the body’s chief executive, said: “The decision by NHS England to limit access to treatment is manifestly unfair on a group of vulnerable people who suffer from a terrible disease.
“Those who are infected can go on to develop cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.
“Denying these people life-saving treatment is a potential death sentence for thousands.”
Addaction’s view has already won support from the Hepatitis C Trust, which has sought a judicial review into the NHS’s decision.
However, a spokesman from NHS England says more people could qualify for the treatment once costs come down.
They said: “The NHS’s single biggest new treatment investment this year is providing these high-cost treatments to thousands of people with hepatitis C, in accordance with NICE guidance.
“The NHS has successfully treated thousands of patients with acute needs, and is now working on a phased basis to treat the far larger number of patients with chronic but not life-threatening hepatitis C.
“The Department of Health has been running successful competitive procurements to secure the best prices it can.
“As prices come down we hope in future years to be able to expand treatments even further within the funding available, and the industry is now engaging in the discussions with us about how best to do this.”
Addaction and the Hepatitis C Trust recently teamed up to run a staff training programme, as well as a peer-to-peer system, to encourage hepatitis sufferers to seek treatment. The project has since been recognised at The Communique Awards, recognising healthcare communications.