Cancer fund betrayal: It promised £200m for vital drugs, but millions haven’t been spent – and patients are paying the price
The flagship fund set up by the Government to provide life-extending drugs for cancer sufferers is millions of pounds underspent while patients are still being rejected for treatment.
Almost £200million was allocated to the Cancer Drugs Fund during this financial year yet alarming figures show that in some areas less than one-fifth of the money has been spent.
One of the biggest culprits is the region covering the Prime Minister’s Witney constituency in Oxfordshire. Only £1.6million out of £9.3million – around 17 per cent – had been spent in the South Central strategic health authority area from April to the end of November.
In other underspent regions cancer patients are being turned down, with some having to fund their own drugs. The Rarer Cancers Foundation charity has warned that the fund is simply another postcode lottery.
Tory MP Pauline Latham was outraged that the East Midlands panel of the Cancer Drugs Fund has decided not to approve treatments given the go ahead by seven other strategic health authorities, although a third of its budget – £4.3million – is unspent.
Two patients in her constituency of Mid Derbyshire denied access to the drug Avastin for bowel cancer have spent thousands of pounds of their own money on treatment. One is ‘living proof it works because she has been taking it for two years’, Mrs Latham told MPs during a debate last week.
They were turned down because Avastin was the first drug they were treated with – protocol said it had to be the second drug and then the NHS would have paid for it.
Mrs Latham said she was ‘appalled at the way those patients are being treated’ and had asked for the decision to be reviewed weeks ago, yet this still had not been done. ‘The Cancer Drugs Fund was set up to stop this kind of lottery,’ she added. ‘In my area, it is not fit for purpose and is not working for the benefit of patients.’
Campaigners fear that millions of pounds meant to ease the suffering of cancer patients will disappear to pay off NHS debts. If the funding set aside this year is not used, there is no guarantee it will be earmarked for cancer patients next year.
The funding from the Department of Health covers England only and is administered by clinically led panels set up by ten strategic health authorities. Each has different amounts to spend on cancer drugs, ranging from around £9million to £30million, depending on population size.
Only North East SHA says it will spend its entire allocation of £11million by next April. Two others are going to spend half, while the remainder have so far spent between 14 per cent and 66 per cent.
Ministers pledged extra funding to pay for drugs banned by Nice, the NHS rationing body. Andrew Lansley, then Tory health spokesman, said on the day before the 2010 General Election: ‘We will ensure through our new Cancer Drugs Fund that patients will be able to get the drugs that their doctors say they need. That is what patients expect and deserve.’
Andrew Wilson, chief executive of the Rarer Cancers Foundation, said: ‘By the end of 2011 thousands of patients will have gained access to treatments through the Cancer Drugs Fund, yet a significant proportion of the fund is going unspent.
‘There is ample money available to pay for the cancer drugs which clinicians believe will benefit their patients. We are calling on strategic health authorities to use this money for its intended purpose, to improve access to cancer treatments and ultimately improve cancer outcomes.’
Health Minister Simon Burns said: ‘It is vital that patients, no matter where they live, have access to the cancer drugs so they can spend precious extra time with their loved ones. ‘Since October last year, we have committed to making £650million available through the Cancer Drugs Fund that has so far helped over 7,500 patients access cancer drugs recommended by their doctors.
‘If SHAs have met the clinical need in their area for cancer drugs then technically they could use any underspend on other areas, but we are clear that this is money marked for cancer drugs and would expect it to be carried forward into the next year’s Cancer Drugs Fund.’
East Midlands SHA said it had given Mrs Latham ‘an undertaking to report back from the latest discussions with clinicians about the funding of Avastin by the Cancer Drugs Fund’.
South Central SHA said: ‘Since April 2011 until the end of November 2011, the South Central fund has received 493 applications of which 416 have been approved, 26 have been declined and the remaining have been withdrawn or are pending a decision.’
Overconfident doctors visit mayhem on innocent parents
Taking your child to hospital can leave you open to being accused of causing their injuries
Parents nowadays are inundated with so much well-meaning advice from so many sources, it seems almost impertinent to proffer any more. But they do need to be aware of how to combat the hazards, when taking their children to hospital, of being accused of having caused their injuries.
Six years ago in this column, I described the case of a young couple, Mary and Andrew, who took their four-week-old son, Josh, to hospital after noting while changing his nappy that there was something “funny” about the upper part of his leg. This was duly X-rayed, revealing not just a fractured femur but several more around the growing ends of his bones, or metaphyseal fractures.
The police were summoned and the couple taken to the local station, where they were locked in separate cells and charged with assault and grievous bodily harm. Their son’s injuries, they learnt, were apparently “characteristic” of being deliberately inflicted by violent shaking and wrenching and twisting of the limbs.
Josh, however, was clearly not a battered baby in any commonsensical understanding of the term, being well cared for by affectionate parents and without the slightest hint of the sort of circumstantial evidence – bruising, pain and swelling of the limbs – that might reasonably be expected were these fractures caused by excess physical force.
The pattern of injuries is much more suggestive of some unknown, undiagnosed or overlooked disturbance of bone development in the early weeks of life. But the parents’ protestations of innocence naught availeth against the medical experts and, as with so many others similarly accused, they were convicted and their son taken into foster care.
And so it has gone on, causing more grief and suffering than can be imagined to all concerned – until a landmark trial at the Old Bailey earlier this month involving another young couple, Rohan Wray and Chana Al-Alas, who were accused of murdering their four-month-old son Jayden. Concerned he was not well, they had initially taken him to casualty at London’s University College Hospital where they were told he had flu, then to their GP three days later, who could find nothing seriously amiss but advised they take him back to hospital – which they duly did.
Soon after, he had a prolonged seizure before lapsing into a coma. Further investigations revealed a fracture of the skull, a number of several metaphyseal fractures, and swelling and bleeding on the surface of the brain. His condition deteriorated further and he was transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital, where he died two days later.
The parents were duly charged with having deliberately caused these fatal injuries in the short period between taking him to their GP and then on to hospital for the second time. The implausibility of this scenario, and the suspicion that there might be something else to account for his injuries, was heightened with the surprise finding of the autopsy that he had rickets, the widespread softening of the bones due to vitamin D deficiency.
The trial opened at the beginning of October and ran for six weeks, with 60 medical and professional witnesses giving evidence. The jury heard of the good moral standing of the couple, the lack of circumstantial evidence of neglect, how lack of oxygen during his seizure could have damaged the brain – and, most significantly, how recent research in the United States has confirmed that vitamin D deficiency can indeed result in those “characteristically abusive” metaphyseal fractures.
The case collapsed and, with the charges withdrawn, the couple walked free. No medical experts are going to admit they might have been wrong, for to do so would be to concede that they had been instrumental in so many other miscarriages of justice in the past. But it would be good to think that the outcome at the Old Bailey might finally signal the end of these wrongful accusations – a cheery note on which to close the year.
Fuller coverage of the Wray case here.
An earlier similar case here.
Modern-day climate change witch hunt
What is it about freakishly cold winters that so agitates intolerant moralists? In Europe 500 years ago, any sign of a dip in the winter weather would be greeted by much gnashing of teeth from the morality police. Sometimes they’d even burn at the stake “witches” who were said to have caused the extreme cold through their wicked behaviour and sorcery.
Fast-forward to the 21st century and still there’s nothing like a bitingly cold winter to drive moralists mad with priestly fury. Only today, in a more PC, less pyromaniacal version of what their forebears did, they don’t burn people at the stake for causing cold winters – no, they prefer to hector us with op-eds and insults instead.
The last couple of winters in western Europe have been bitterly cold. Last year the British Isles were coated in thick snow, causing chaos. This winter is shaping up to be a bit warmer, though cold snaps are expected in the new year.
All this iciness has put green-leaning moralists in a tailspin. They scour the press and the blogs for any whiff of a hint of a suggestion that perhaps these cold winters disprove the global-warming thesis, and inform us that, actually, extreme coldness is yet another side-effect of man’s constant farting of CO2 into the environment.
This week, a top Welsh scientist highlighted one of the key problems associated with very cold winters – no, not the possibility of elderly people going hypothermia or an increased risk of car accidents on slushy roads, but the danger that the dumb public will think all this snow proves hot-headed environmentalists wrong.
Professor Michael Hambrey of the University of Aberystwyth said “the public must not be misled into believing that a series of cold winters are evidence that climate change is a myth”.
Echoing green activists, who get strangely defensive during very cold winters, Professor Hambrey reminded us that climate change is not only going to make the world hellishly hotter but will also lead to a situation where “more extreme winters become the norm”.
Last year, during Britain’s big freeze, greens incessantly lectured us about how cold winters are just as much the fault of greedy, hubristic, polluting man as recent heatwaves and droughts have been.
A writer for The Times said anyone who seizes the opportunity of a wicked winter to ask “what happened to global warming?” is an “idiot”, because nobody ever claimed that climate change would “make Britain hotter in the long run”. (Er, yes they did.)
A headline in the Guardian informed us that: “The snow outside is what global warming looks like”, and the reason the plebs and simpletons who make up modern Britain can’t understand this fact is because they are: “simple, earthy creatures, governed by the senses… What [they] see and taste and feel overrides analysis. The cold has reason in a deathly grip.”
Perhaps. Or perhaps the reason the public’s cynicism towards environmentalism goes up a notch whenever it snows is because for the past 10 years, before the recent big freezes set in, environmentalists told us we’d never see snow again.
“Snow is starting to disappear from our lives”, declared the Independent in March 2000, quoting an expert from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia – a major producer of climate-change info – saying that “children just aren’t going to know what snow is”.
Mark Lynas, one of Britain’s chief climate-change alarmists, told us in 2004 to prepare for life on a “hotter planet” in which “the traditional British winter [is] probably gone for good”.
And yet today, any mortal who dares to wonder out loud why it’s snowing so much if the planet is supposed to be getting hotter is told to shut up, branded an “idiot”, pityingly looked upon as a “simple creature” lacking reason. Weird wintry weather is as manmade as hotness is, we’re told. In short, snow, like floods and droughts and plagues of locusts, is another by-product of our destructive behaviour.
These greens don’t seem to realise how much they sound like medieval witch-hunters. In the Dark Ages, before man enlightened himself, witches were frequently hunted and burned on the basis that they were causing climate change – specifically very cold winters.
One of the driving forces behind the witch-hunting mania in Europe between the 15th and 17th centuries was the idea that these peculiar creatures had warped the weather.
As the German historian Wolfgang Behringer argued in his 2004 book, Witches and Witch-Hunts, “large-scale persecutions were clearly linked to years of extreme hardship and in particular the type of misery related to extreme climatic events”.
So during the Little Ice Age, the period of unusual coldness that started around the mid-1500s, there was an upsurge in witch-hunting. There was another outburst in 1628, described by historians as “the year without a summer”, because once again people’s crops failed and they were desperate to find someone to blame. As Behringer puts it, when the “climate stayed unfavourable or ‘unnatural’ the demand for persecutions persisted”.
Johann Weyer, the 16th-century physicist who spoke out against witch-hunting, described how one woman was forced to confess to causing climate change: “[A] poor old woman was driven by torture to confess – as she was about to be offered to Vulcan’s flames – that she had caused the incredible severity of the previous winter of 1565, and the extreme cold, and the lasting ice.”
Pointy-hatted Witchfinder Generals were convinced that foul, immoral people, through the magic of their thoughts and words, had conjured up climatic mayhem and icy conditions. Sound familiar? Yep – today, too, hectoring moralists hold wicked human beings responsible for causing unusual coldness.
In the old witch-hunting era, it was a powerful sense of social uncertainty and fear of the future which led the priestly class to view mysterious individuals as being culpable for climate change. Today, too, a similarly profound social and moral malaise has led elite greens to claim that the throng, with its reckless ways and insatiable material desires, is causing dangerously freezing/hot conditions.
Of course, in one important way today’s green moaners are more enlightened than the witch-hunters of old: they don’t hurl anyone on to “Vulcan’s flames”. But in another sense they’re more backward than the medieval moralists since they don’t only old a few sad old women responsible for climatic disarray, but rather point the finger of blame at everyone – all the “idiots” and “simple creatures” whose desire for stuff and wealth and holidays is apparently causing both cruel summers and harsh winters. In the eyes of the green lobby, we are all witches now.
British teachers who branded their primary school pupils ‘thick and inbred’ during Facebook conversations ‘quit’ their jobs after parent’s outrage
Maybe what the teachers said among themselves was a bit too close to the truth
Two teachers who branded their pupils ‘thick and inbred’ on Facebook have quit their jobs after parents expressed outrage, it was revealed today. Former head Debbie Johnson and teacher Nyanza Roberts left Westcott Primary School following an investigation, Hull City Council confirmed.
Mary Wallace, the chair of governors, said in a letter to parents, that the two had ‘decided to relinquish their posts’.
Print-outs of the Facebook comments were posted on fencing near the primary School and word quickly spread among the 250 pupils. One said: ‘No wonder everyone is thick… inbreeding must damage brain development.’ Another referred to seeing pupils queuing in a discount store.
The online exchange, allegedly between teachers at the school, prompted anger among parents.
In a letter to parents, Ms Wallace said: ‘Further to my last letter in which I promised to keep you updated with any developments at the school I write to inform you the investigation into the Facebook matter which affected a number of staff within the school has now been concluded. The details will remain confidential for legal reasons.
‘However, I am able to inform you Ms Johnson and Miss Roberts have decided to relinquish their posts at Westcott Primary School from December 2011 and will pursue other opportunities.
‘For the other members of staff involved in this matter, this has now been concluded under the school’s disciplinary procedure. Again, no details can be given for legal reasons.
‘I can assure you that the children’s education and welfare continue to lie at the heart of everything we do and the school is running smoothly under the leadership of Mr Roe, the deputy headteacher who will take over as acting headteacher until a new headteacher is recruited.
‘All classes are being covered by qualified teaching staff and everyone is working hard to ensure that the children’s education and well-being are not affected in any way.’
The Facebook conversation is said to have taken place on a Saturday, when the school was closed, and begins with teacher Stuart Clark writing that he is ‘fed up of bumping into children in town’.
Later Nyanza Roberts makes a reference to an area of the town and adds: ‘No wonder everyone is thick… inbreeding must damage brain development.’
Head Debbie Johnson responds: ‘You’re really on one today mrs…!!Xx’
Miss Roberts replies: ‘Haha I’m actually in a good mood!! If anyone reading this is offended, then get a grip!!’
Another teacher, Jane Johnson, then interjects: ‘Massive queue of Westcott year 5/6 kids in poundland!X’
Parents were furious. Emma Bywood, 30, who has two children at the school, said: ‘My son came home on Monday and I had to explain to him what inbred meant. ‘I’m fuming. If he wasn’t in Year 6, I would be taking him out of the school. But he is starting his Sats exams after Christmas.’
Beckie White, 33, who has a nine-year-old daughter at the school, said: ‘I know it’s Facebook and it’s out of school hours, but they have a responsibility. ‘They know these things might be seen by people and, of course, parents will be hacked off. There should at least be an apology.’
Another mother commented: ‘I’m disgusted and disappointed. I feel let down by the people who are supposed to be role models for our children. ‘I have lost confidence and respect for the teachers at the school. I have doubts about keeping my child at the school.’
Miss Johnson earlier insisted the comments had been taken ‘out of context’ and implied they did not refer to the children.
A council spokeswoman said: ‘We are continuing to support the school and will now focus on moving forward to ensure that children get the best possible standards of education. For legal reasons we are not able to go into any more detail.’
There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up — on his usual vastly “incorrect” themes of race, genes, IQ etc.