Remember, the answer to our health care problems is to turn over health care decisions to the government. Everyone will have access to health care. We will all live longer. World peace will envelope the globe.
As an ophthalmologist, I have spent my working life in the NHS. And for all its perceived failings, I have been proud of its fundamental role in our society – to provide equality of care for all.
Of course, I’ve heard the term postcode lottery but as a doctor I’ve only ever provided my patients with the best course of treatment available.
So when I’ve read about people being refused particular drugs simply because of where they lived, I’ve always believed there must be another reason – even if it wasn’t immediately obvious at the time.
I never for a moment thought that a life could be decided by something as arbitrary as one’s address.
Yet that is what has happened to my father. And it is only now, sitting on the side of the patient, that I have seen the injustice inherent in our system and the devastation it can cause.
A year ago, Dad was a happy, active 68-year-old, living in Newbury, Berkshire, with my Mum, Mary.
A former electrical engineer, in his spare time he helped build the replica Bombe – the machine used by the British to break the German Enigma codes during the Second World War.
Then, last summer, he began to feel a little off-colour. At first he was tired, then he stopped eating. By the autumn he didn’t even have the energy to walk his Jack Russell dog.
In October we discovered the reason why. Dad had a large tumour on his kidneys.
It was explained that the kidney could be removed but the cancer may have spread and that chemotherapy and radiotherapy do not work for this type of cancer.
It was therefore a great relief when he was told that research had shown that a new drug, Sutent, can give a glimmer of hope and that his consultant had already used the drug to help other patients.
And he was further reassured that even though the drug had not yet been assessed by NICE (the National Institute of Clinical Excellence), his Primary Care Trust (PCT) had funded its use for seven patients in the past year.
My father then underwent major surgery to remove his kidney. It was found that there was still some cancer left and that it may have spread to his lungs.
His consultant told him they would apply for Sutent to be funded.
Imagine his surprise when he was told that West Berkshire PCT would no longer fund that treatment because of a change in policy.
His only option was to go on Interferon Alpha, an old drug his consultant does not think is as effective as Sutent. It also has significant side effects.
My father was left with two options: to die early, or spend the rest of his life on a drug that is likely to make his life not worth living.
For her father to lose his life to cancer would be awful, his daughter, Sarah Anderson, writes. But to lose it to the bureaucracy!?