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Making sure NHS is there for us all
We all rely on the National Health Service to be there in our hour of need, and to provide, for free, whatever treatments our doctor prescribes. It comes as a shock when the NHS says no.
This year, I have received many more complaints than usual from constituents who have been denied treatment. I take up their cases with the NHS, and with Ministers at the Department of health. Some eventually get the treatment they need, but others are left high and dry.
It is a big problem and after consulting doctors and health experts I am trying to change the law to give NHS patients a right to treatment.
In the House of Commons next Tuesday, I shall introduce my National Health Service (Right to Treatment) Bill.
The Bill seeks to do three things:
• To ensure that any medical treatment prescribed by a doctor will be provided by the NHS unless the Secretary of State for Health, or his medical and scientific advisers at the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, say no
• To establish a national register of all cases where treatment is refused, to act as a check on creeping privatisation of NHS services
• To give patients a right of appeal if treatment is denied.
Patients in York and North Yorkshire are being hit harder than elsewhere.
If you are obese you can generally have a gastric band fitted – to reduce the size of your stomach – if your body mass index is over 40, but in York the treatment is limited to extreme cases where the body mass is over 50.
Test-tube baby treatments for infertile couples are available in Hull and Leeds, but not in York. Facet joint injections to relieve back pain have been stopped in York, but are available elsewhere.
Haxby Health Centre hit the headlines recently when it told patients they would have to go private if they needed eight common treatments.
Ingrowing toenails would cost £146, for example, and removal of benign lesions (such as moles) would cost £243.
I am particularly concerned about a constituent with cystic fibrosis who needs antibiotics to prevent lung and other infections, which could prove fatal.
She is unable to take the two most common antibiotics for people with cystic fibrosis because they don’t work for her, so her consultant has prescribed a new drug, but the York and North Yorkshire NHS Primary Care Trust will not pay for it.
I wrote to the Health Minister, Earl Howe, to ask him to release the drug, but he said “it would not be appropriate for me as a Minister to intervene”.
The Minister is in charge of prescription drugs. If he won’t take a decision, who will? This case persuaded me that we need to change the law.
When people buy private health insurance they check carefully to see what treatments are covered. NHS patients, who pay national insurance, need a similar guarantee, which is what my Bill seeks to achieve.