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Health postcode lottery ‘must end’
THE health postcode lottery which hits York and North Yorkshire patients so hard would be outlawed if a York MP has his way.
York Central Labour MP Hugh Bayley, writing in The Press today, revealed he will be introducing a National Health Service (Right to Treatment) Bill in the Commons next Tuesday.
He said the Bill would ensure that any medical treatment prescribed by a doctor must be provided by the NHS, unless the Health Secretary or National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence advisers say no.
There would also be a national register of all cases where treatment is refused and a right of appeal for patients if treatment is denied.
The MP said he had received more complaints than usual this year from constituents denied treatment. After taking up their cases, some eventually received it but others were left “high and dry,”
and patients in York and North Yorkshire were being hit harder than elsewhere.
The Press has reported previously how patients locally have been badly affected by postcode restrictrions in areas such as gastric band surgery, IVF treament for infertile couples and back pain treatments. NHS North Yorkshire and York has said before that it had to have due regard to the need to remain financially solvent.
Mr Bayley revealed he was particularly concerned about a constituent with cystic fibrosis who needed antibiotics to prevent lung and other potentially fatal infections.
He said the two most common antibiotics for such patients did not work for her, and so her consultant had prescribed a new drug. However, the York and North Yorkshire NHS Primary Care Trust would not pay for it, and a health minister had refused to intervene.
A right to expect NHS treatment
YORK Central MP Hugh Bayley makes an excellent point in his column in today’s Press.
When people buy private health insurance, they first check carefully to see what treatments are covered, he points out. Yet NHS patients, who all pay National Insurance, have no guarantees about what they can expect from the National Health Service.
The postcode lottery is alive and well when it comes to health care.
As Mr Bayley points out, IVF treatment for infertile couples is available in Hull and Leeds – but not in York and North Yorkshire. Facet joint injections to relieve back pain are given in some parts of the country – but not here.
The case that most concerns Mr Bayley, however, is that of a constituent with cystic fibrosis. She needs antibiotics to prevent potentially fatal lung and other infections. The two antibiotics most commonly used don’t work for her, so her consultant prescribed an alternative – only for local health bosses to refuse to pay for it.
We understand that there isn’t a bottomless fund of resources for health care. Money must be spent wisely and well.
But we all pay for the health service, and we have the right to expect a guaranteed standard of care that doesn’t depend on where we live.
Next week in the House of Commons Mr Bayley will be seeking to introduce a bill that, if it were passed, would effectively outlaw the health postcode lottery. There would be a presumption in favour of treatment prescribed by a doctor; a national register of cases where treatment was refused; and a right of appeal.
Mr Bayley’s bill is unlikely to become law. But it raises hugely important issues, and is a welcome contribution to the debate on health service funding at a time when the NHS we know and love is undergoing the biggest changes it has ever seen.