Torment of cancer mother turned away 15 times by GP: Now she faces death because breakthrough treatment had been axed by time she was sent to hospital
A mother of three is facing death after being refused a breakthrough cancer treatment. Kathy Craven, 43, who has been fighting breast cancer for five years, was denied the treatment because of a recent NHS funding clampdown.
Just two months ago, she would have got a new type of radiation therapy, but she was not referred to hospital until it was too late.
She had gone to her GP surgery 15 times with telltale symptoms that her cancer had spread to her liver – but was told she was probably too young for that to have happened.
The therapy, which could halve Mrs Craven’s tumours, was cut from the Cancer Drugs Fund list of treatments in April.
In a further bitter twist, the radiation would even save the NHS money as it costs less than the chemotherapy she is having – which is failing to work.
Now Mrs Craven, her partner Brian Russell, 47, and three boys, Alfie, 13, Finn, eight, and seven-year-old Casey are determined not to lose the chance of spending more time together.
She said: ‘Time is of the essence, and I don’t understand why I and women like me can be refused funding – it is grossly unfair.
‘When this nightmare started and I had to tell my boys that I had cancer, I promised them that I would do everything and anything in my power to stay with them for as long as I possibly could. I was elated when I discovered there was a real chance of extending my life, but it has turned to despair.
‘My oncologist says I need to be treated within the next month, and I will fight this decision – I am fighting for my life.’
Mrs Craven, who lives near Wimborne, Dorset, had pinned her hopes on a breakthrough treatment called Selective Internal Radiation Therapy, known as SIRT, in which millions of tiny radioactive beads are injected into the artery that supplies the cancer.
It only became available in England via the Cancer Drugs Fund two years ago after a fight by doctor Becky Smith, who was denied it by a local trust.
She eventually got treatment after a U-turn but died in May last year. Since then SIRT has been axed pending a review – a decision which could stop up to 500 patients getting it this year.
Doctors can make funding requests for ‘exceptional’ patients, but two attempts to get treatment for Mrs Craven have been rejected.
When first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, aged 39, she made the brave decision to also have her healthy breast removed because cases of cancer in the family meant odds were stacked against her.
Despite the operation, by October 2010 Mrs Craven felt very unwell and feared the cancer had spread. But it took 15 visits to GPs and a private CT scan before a huge mass was found on her liver.
She said she was ‘over the moon’ when her doctor said SIRT treatment might reduce the liver tumours by 50 per cent and prolong her life ‘by many months’.
But Mrs Craven’s medical team at hospitals in Poole and Southampton were told last week by NHS England, which oversees such requests, they were not allowed to treat her.
She said: ‘I was so shocked. I didn’t think it would be a problem as the NHS is paying for my chemo which is very expensive and isn’t working. What can I do to be more “exceptional”?
‘I still have three children at school.’ The family now face the daunting task of raising £45,000 for private treatment – when the NHS cost is around £14,000.
She added: ‘My grandmother, who is now expected to outlive her granddaughter, always said “Value your health”… I just wish the NHS would give me the chance to do that.’
My dad was a GP. But in HIS hour of need the 111 helpline let him down, says Tory MP
A Tory MP has revealed how the NHS 111 helpline let down her dying father – a retired GP – in his hour of need. Anne McIntosh, 58, said she called the number after he developed worrying symptoms suggesting he had an infection.
Despite pleading to be put through to a doctor or nurse, she was made to answer a series of ‘completely inappropriate’ questions by an unqualified worker ‘sticking religiously to the script’.
After 15 minutes, the MP hung up ‘in sheer frustration’ and dialled 999 hoping to call out an ambulance. But as her father was so frail, paramedics were reluctant to transport him to the hospital 20 miles away and instead arranged for a GP to visit.
The doctor did not arrive for another three hours and her father died from the urinary infection four days later.
The Mail has repeatedly drawn attention to the failings of the helpline and the shocking state of out-of-hours care in our series The Out-of-Hours Debacle.
The new phone service, which is meant to provide round-the-clock medical advice, has replaced NHS Direct and local GP out-of-hours numbers.
Depending on a patient’s condition, they will either be told to go to A&E, given an appointment at a GP clinic or offered medical advice over the phone.
But many people are being put through to call centre workers with just a few weeks training, who can only use a computer system to assess the severity of their illness.
The MP – who is also a lawyer – acknowledged that her father’s death would have been very difficult to prevent.
However, she said that both her father and her family had been failed by the helpline.
‘What is particularly poignant for me and my family is that my father had been a local GP in that area for some 30 years,’ she said. ‘He attended patients in all weathers and at all hours. My father was from a generation of GPs who were used to working all hours. He worked every other night on call and every other weekend on duty.
‘And he always made sure he put his patients first. It is obviously a source of some regret that he did not have similar access to a GP in his own hour of need.’
The MP for Thirsk and Malton, North Yorkshire, recounted her experience during a debate about the helpline in the Commons earlier this week.
She had been visiting her father in County Durham – one of a handful of ‘pilot’ areas where the helpline has been running since 2010.
She said: ‘When I called 111 I got the ritual reply of sticking very closely to a script, which I found completely inappropriate at times. I explained my father’s condition but the responder insisted on sticking religiously to the script – asking whether the patient was breathing, whether they were bleeding.
‘I kept saying that I was not reporting an accident but a regular condition, the symptoms of which were extremely plain, and asking whether I could, please, just be passed to a nurse or doctor.
‘I have to say that in the end I hung up in sheer frustration ten or 15 minutes into the call because I could tell that I was not getting anywhere quickly.’
Yesterday NHS England released figures which it claimed showed the system was ‘steadily improving’ with 92 per cent of patients being ‘satisfied’ with the call centre staff.
But there were huge gaps in the data with crucial statistics apparently ‘not available’ for certain areas of the country where the launch of the helpline has been disastrous.
And earlier this week a leaked official report revealed how calls were routinely answered by untrained staff, patients were put on hold and doctors’ warnings ignored.
Recently Miss McIntosh, who is married but uses her maiden name, upset some women GPs by referring to the high cost of training female doctors who may end up working just a few days a week. She claimed those who only work part-time after having children are putting a ‘burden’ on the NHS.
Brightest pupils targeted in new British standards drive
Secondary schools will be ordered to prepare more pupils for top universities amid claims from Ofsted that large numbers of the brightest teenagers are failing to reach their potential.
The education watchdog will tell teachers to do more to stretch children between the age of 11 and 18 to prevent the most sought-after higher education places being dominated by students from a small number of elite schools.
It is believed that comprehensives will be told to set and stream pupils by ability and ensure talented teenagers sit the toughest A-level subjects that are currently seen as a route into leading universities.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector, claimed it was a “big issue for our country” that so many bright students failed to achieve their potential at secondary school.
Speaking recently, he criticised the fact that just four private schools and one sixth-form college now send more pupils to Oxbridge than 2,000 state comprehensives combined.
An Ofsted analysis has shown that around one-in-five pupils who gain top scores in English and maths at the age of 11 currently fail to go on to gain A* or A grades in GCSEs at the end of secondary education.
Next week, the watchdog will publish a major report into the reasons why so many comprehensives are letting down the most able pupils.
“It will be a ground-breaking report that will say some important things about the standard of provision for our most able pupils,” Sir Michael said.
“It’s a big issue for our country. Do we need more youngsters from the state system to get into universities? Yes, we do.”
The report is likely to call a greater use of setting and streaming – rather than teaching in mixed-ability groups.
This follows comments by Sir Michael last year when he warned that mixed-ability classes were a “curse” on both bright and low-skilled pupils.
According to previous Ofsted figures, just 45 per cent of the 22,834 lessons observed by inspectors in 2010/11 employed some form of setting by ability.
HRT IS safe to combat menopause, say experts: After decade of controversy, benefits now thought to outweigh risks
More vindication of what I said from the beginning
Taking medication to reduce the symptoms of the menopause is safe according to medical experts.
They say hundreds of thousands of women have suffered unnecessarily as a result of the decade-long controversy over the effects of Hormone Replacement Therapy.
Fresh guidance from the British Menopause Society is seeking to reassure patients, saying the benefits of HRT outweigh any potential risk for women in their 50s.
They say GPs should prescribe the treatment to any woman who has unpleasant menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes and mood changes. HRT is also known to provide bone protection in later life.
However, the debate is likely to rage on as The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists continues to advise HRT only for women with serious menopausal symptoms for the shortest time possible.
After five years doctors are not expected to continue prescribing it without discussing potential risks.
Uptake of HRT halved after two studies linked it to an increased risk of heart disease and breast cancer. An estimated one million women in the UK stopped having the treatment.
Consultant Endocrinologist Dr Helen Buckler, from the University of Manchester, said the emerging consensus was that the benefits of HRT outweighed the risks for most women, and that GPs should consider the updated BMS advice when treating the condition.
Speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival, she said the two studies linking HRT to breast cancer and heart disease were scientifically unreliable.
She said: ‘The new advice is HRT should be used for a slightly wider age, if need be. If a woman has symptoms affecting the quality of her personal or professional life, then the benefits outweigh the risk.’
The scare began in 2002, when the US Women’s Health Initiative study was halted three years early because researchers claimed women using HRT were at higher risk of breast cancer, heart disease and strokes.
This contradicted previous – and later – research which suggested it guarded against heart problems.
How the debate has raged
HRT is normally prescribed to menopausal women in their 50s, but in the WHI study, it was also given to women in their 60s and 70s who had gone through the menopause more than a decade earlier.
Shortly afterwards the UK Million Women Study, part funded by Cancer Research, said HRT doubled breast cancer risk, but a review last year said it was ‘unreliable and defective’.
Cancer Research advice remains that there is still convincing evidence that women who take HRT have an increased risk of breast cancer. But Dr Buckler said the charity was ‘out of step’ and its approach had tended to ‘put women off’ taking the treatment.
Some younger doctors have never prescribed HRT because they wrongly believe the risks outweigh the benefits, experts have warned.
Jessica Harris, of Cancer Research UK, said there was ‘convincing evidence’ that women who take HRT have an increased risk of breast cancer, but that risk returns to normal around five years after stopping using it.
The BMS guidance is also opposed to the ‘arbitrary’ five year limit on treatment, and says it should be continued if symptoms persist.
The BMS – a registered charity and medical foundation – receives no government funding. Its medical advisory council comprises leading international experts in post reproductive health management, who draw up guidelines for health professionals.
Wind farms are a ‘complete scam’, claims Britain’s Environment Secretary — who says turbines are causing ‘huge unhappiness’
Wind farms have been branded a ‘complete scam’ by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, reigniting coalition battle over green power.
As the government unveiled new powers for local residents to block turbines blighting their villages, Mr Paterson condemned many planned schemes as ‘deeply unpopular’ and causing ‘huge unhappiness’ across the country.
The outspoken remarks from a senior Tory minister in charge of environmental policy risks a furious reaction from Liberal Democrats pushing for more renewable power projects.
The Conservatives have taken a tougher line on wind farms in recent months, and this week unveiled plans to give communities a powerful ‘veto’ over controversial new onshore developments.
Schemes will have to gain local residents’ consent before a planning application can even be made, effectively handing them the power to prevent turbines being erected.
Planning rules are also to be changed so that the drive for renewable energy can no longer be used as a reason for overriding environmental and other concerns.
Mr Paterson signalled that plans for wind farms will have to take into account the impact on the countryside and views as well as the desire to save the planet.
In an extraordinary intervention at the Royal Cornwall Show yesterday, the Tory Cabinet minister said: ‘Turbines are regarded as a complete scam, but as of today we have given power to local communities to decide.
‘The criteria is now that environment and landscape will have to be taken into consideration as well as the national energy requirement.’
Under the new rules councils must look at the cumulative impact of wind turbines and reflect the effect on landscape and local facilities.
There is also a major increase promised in the amount developers pay local communities to win them over, including long-term electricity bill discounts of up to 20 per cent.
However, Mr Paterson suggested anger with many schemes would not be overcome by additional bribes.
He added: ‘I know there is huge unhappiness with some of these projects, both from what I hear nationally and from my own constituency in Shropshire.
‘There are places where these projects are well prepared, the community wants it and it will be worthwhile. But in inland areas they are very often deeply unpopular,’ the Western Morning News reported.
Leila Deen, Greenpeace energy campaigner, said: ‘Wind farms may seem like a scam to a Government minister who questions the science of climate change and who’s pushing for his Shropshire constituency to be fracked for shale gas.
‘The public disagrees – two thirds of people would rather have a wind turbine near their home than a fracking site.
‘Onshore wind powered almost 2.5 million homes in 2011, is falling in cost and will play a key role in our future energy mix.’
Mr Paterson’s appointment to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs last September was controversial, with allies forced to deny he was a climate change denier.
In 2007, he described wind farms as ridiculous, claiming they ‘demand vast amounts of public subsidy and do not work’.
Green measures will only save £31 by 2020, says British consumer protection body
Government estimates of the savings that will be made on household energy bills from its green measures have been dismissed as “unduly optimistic”.
Consumer Futures, the official UK protection body, today warned the Government its estimates of savings from encouraging consumers to use more energy efficient products and appliances were “unduly optimistic”.
It urged the Department of Energy and Climate Change to make an assessment of the impact if take up of new products is lower than predicted while warning that two million low income households, many dependent on electricity for heating, would be worst affected, including many pensioners.
It wants the DECC to investigate measures to offset the costs for poorer customers reliants on electricity.
In a report – The Hardest Hit – it said the average “benefit” from encouraging more use of energy efficient appliances and other green measures would be £31 per household a year – or 2pc – by 2020 rather than the official estimate of £166.
The study estimated that if demand for these appliances is lower than expected, bills would increase on average by £93 or 7pc above where they would have been if the Government had done nothing.
Much of the DECC’s estimate is based on policies introduced in 2002, such as new rules that encourage boilers to be replaced. The Consumer Futures study was based on measures introduced after 2010.
Consumer Futures estimated that 2.1 million low income households may be significant losers from the energy policy, in particular those dependent on electric heating and including many pensioners.
Households reliant on electric heating would see their typical bill rise by £282 by 2020, the report warned. This is because the cost of energy efficiciency policies fall largely on electricity customers. Such initiatives include the Electricity Market Reform (EMR) – investment in the network – and Renewables Obligation, where households with solar panels and other energy generation devices are subsidised by other electricity customers. The schemes will have cost an estimated £4.8bn by 2020.
Consumer Futures called for intervention to protect the most vulnerable customers from unfair additional costs.
Adam Scorer, director of policy at Consumer Futures, said: “Many will be protected from such costs by benefits such as energy efficiency, microgeneration technology and bill discounts. But for those who are not protected, the impact on their bills will be significant.
“Energy policies should provide benefits to many consumers, but as they are rolled out they will also create clear winners and losers. Some of those losers will be hit hard, and will not be in a position to absorb some significant bill shocks.”
He also warned that the Government assumptions on savings could prove danergous. “There is a real danger that heroic assumptions about the benefits of product policy could perform the function of an energy policy comfort blanket, providing an illusory sense of security and cost saving,” he said. “Consumers cannot afford such over generous policy assumptions.
“The Government must use the current Energy Bill and forthcoming Fuel Poverty Strategy and Heat Strategy to provide greater protection to those who rely on electric heating, but who cannot rely on current protections against the cost of energy policies.”
Downing Street is ploughing ahead with a range of measures to “decarbonise” the UK economy, with the costs picked up by taxpayers, businesses and consumers. It is in reaction to the consensus of scientific opinion that human activity that releases carbon into the atmosphere contributes to climate change.
The UK is bound by international agreements to achieve an 80pc reduction in emissions by 2050.
The DECC also launched the Green Deal in January, which offers loans for energy efficient measures to be undertaken on homes with the cost recouped via additional repayments on the homeowner or tenants’ energy bills.
But the policy has faced fierce opposition. An amendment to the Energy Bill which would commit the UK to have a “near carbon-free power sector” by 2030 was rejected in House of Commons yesterday. The bill has now passed on to the House of Lords.
A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: “The Energy Bill – which received overwhelming support in Parliament yesterday – and our policies to encourage investment in low carbon energy, will help cushion UK consumers from rising global wholesale oil and gas prices.
“Households with electric heating can benefit from the Warm Home Discount, which is helping over 2million households each year, the Green Deal, which will improve the energy efficiency of the nation’s housing stock and the Energy Company Obligation, which will put efficient boilers and insulation in thousands of homes each year, helping those who need it most.
“This is on top of work by Ofgem to extend the gas distribution network and a the Government’s grant scheme to help householders with the up-front cost of installing renewable heat equipment.
“We will consider Consumer Futures’ research carefully, but it does not take account the fact households – including those with electric heating – will continue to save money with energy efficiency measures installed before 2010. Our assumptions on products are also not based on expectations of a change in consumer behaviour. We do not assume or require that people replace products any faster than they already do.”
Britain committed to new nukes
Ministers and EDF still disagree on “five or six” issues over the building of Britain’s first new nuclear plant in a generation, Michael Fallon has said, insisting the French company does not have the Government “over a barrel”.
Talks over subsidies for the £14bn Hinkley Point project in Somerset were originally due to be concluded at the end of last year.
But despite suggestions in recent weeks that the two sides were nearing agreement, energy minister Mr Fallon revealed: “We are still apart on five or six issues.”
The comment, in an interview with The House magazine, will cast renewed doubt on the project, which requires not only agreement with the government but also EU state aid approval and for EDF to secure financial partners.
EDF wants the Government to sign a long-term contract guaranteeing it a “strike price” for power from Hinkley Point, subsidised through levies on consumer energy bills. Ministers are under intense pressure not to commit households to paying too much.
Other key terms will include the duration, indexation, and clauses to protect EDF being disadvantaged by other changes in policy.
Asked at an npower event in London on Thursday about the prospect of a EDF securing a rumoured 35-year contract, Mr Fallon said: “Inevitably it is a reasonably lengthy contract if you’re going to get people to invest. I would urge you to wait and see, if we are able to strike a deal, what the terms will be.”
He insisted new nuclear plants were crucial to replace the old ones that are being retired, which produce about 17pc of Britain’s power. “We can’t afford to let 17pc disappear… We need to maintain the energy mix,” he said.
But in the magazine interview Mr Fallon rejected suggestions that the need for new nuclear plants left ministers in a weak negotiating position, citing plans by Japan’s Hitachi to build reactors in Gloucestershire and on Anglesey through the Horizon venture.
“We are not over a barrel,” he said. “We have Hitachi ready to come in… So we are not wholly dependent on Hinkley. We would like to do the deal with EDF but we are not going to do it at any price.
“It’s a very complex negotiation and we are inching closer but we are not quite there yet.”
EDF said on Wednesday that negotiations “are continuing and both sides have characterised them as positive”.
Mr Fallon also made an enthusiastic case for shale gas exploitation in the UK, claiming: “It would be irresponsible not to see what’s down there.”
He described shale gas as “very important”, despite admitting its potential here is not yet known, and suggested businesses may move overseas unless Britain can cut its energy costs.
“Shale has dramatically lowered the cost of energy for industry in the States and it is very important that Western Europe is not put at a disadvantage, that we don’t start losing manufacturing processes, steel plants or chemical plants to the States because of the long term cheaper cost of energy there,” he said.
Promised tax breaks for gas explorers would be “firmed up by the summer” and “take effect from next April”, he said.
GWPF Think Tank Sets Out Areas Of CO2 Agreement And Dispute With Royal Society
Disputes magnitude of threat
Lord Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation has set out the areas of scientific agreement and dispute about whether man’s carbon dioxide emissions pose an environmental threat.
Foundation director Benny Peiser outlined the issues in a letter to [Fellows of] the Royal Society, which defends man-made warming theory and recently offered to put the GWPF “in touch with people who can offer the Foundation informed scientific opinion”.
Peiser says [he] agrees with the dominant scientific establishment that:
* the greenhouse effect is real;
* CO2’s warming potential follows a logarithmic curve with diminishing returns at higher concentrations;
* absent of feedbacks, a doubling of CO2 from pre-industrial levels would warm the atmosphere by about 1.1ºC; and
* since 1980 global temperatures have increased at an average rate of about 0.1ºC per decade.
But [he] says a lack of understanding about feedbacks means the climate sensitivity of rising CO2 concentrations is a “matter of vigorous scientific debate”.
He says the decline of summer sea ice in the Arctic has happened as sea ice in Antarctic has increased. “This is more consistent with regional albedo changes due to soot than with global temperature changes due to global warming.”
He adds: “There is no consensus that recent climate change has affected the variability of weather or the frequency of extreme weather events.”
[Peiser] says the lack a global temperature rise for the last 16 years is at odds with the so-called “scientific consensus” of man-made warming.
“Predictions of increasing humidity and temperature in the tropical troposphere, a key prediction of rapid greenhouse warming, have been falsified by experimental data, casting doubt on whether the warming of 1980-2000 was man-made,” he adds.
On policy responses, Peiser says: “Policies to decarbonise the economy using today’s technology are likely to be harmful to human welfare and natural ecology… Adaptation may be a cheaper and less harmful policy than mitigation.”
Beggars and thieves from across Europe are flocking to the streets of Britain, Theresa May warns the EU
Migrants are travelling from across the EU to ‘beg and steal’ on the streets of Britain, Theresa May will warn Europe’s leaders.
The Home Secretary will demand action to end abuse of the EU’s free movement directive by people who have no intention of finding work.
At a meeting of European home affairs ministers in Luxembourg on Friday, she will highlight how gangs of beggars are setting up camps in London to launch raids on the unsuspecting public.
She will also outline a case in which Romanian fraudsters fleeced the British taxpayer of almost £3million.
Home Office officials say it is a huge achievement for the issue to even be discussed.
EU leaders have been reluctant to even contemplate any changes to the rules – it has taken three years for Mrs May to get it on the agenda,
According to Whitehall sources, the Home Secretary will say that abuse of free movement rights by some EU migrants is placing an ‘unacceptable burden on our schools, our hospitals, our social security systems and our local communities’.
She will stress that it is unacceptable that some EU nationals are able to come to countries such as the UK with no intention of working, but simply to access our state benefits and take advantage of our public services.
Mrs May will then tell the rest of Europe that it cannot be right that national governments are unable to act to stop this abuse.
In a significant move, she will present the council with examples of how EU nationals are fleecing the British taxpayer.
They will include the case of a Lavinia Olmazu, who helped more than 170 Romanians illegally claim £2.9m in benefits has been jailed for two years and three months. Olmazu, a leading campaigner for the rights of Roma gypsies, helped mastermind the scam involving 172 Romanians.
After gaining access to the Romanians through her outreach work with Haringey and Waltham Forest councils and the Big Issue charity, she set up companies with her boyfriend to help facilitate widescale fraudulent benefit claims.
Mrs May will also say there is a ‘recurring problem’ with groups of EU nationals who set up camps in public areas in London, and beg and steal from tourists.
She will say they arrive under the free movement rules but have no intention of working, studying or setting up a business.
In 2012, over 70 per cent of individuals arrested for begging in one London borough – Westminster – were EU citizens.
Police have warned of aggressive begging by people from some Eastern European states, including Romania.
In April Mrs May secured the backing of Germany, Holland and Austria to campaign for tighter restrictions on migrants’ access to hand-outs and other State services.
The four countries wrote to the President of the EU arguing that the free movement directive – a founding principle of the EU – must not be ‘unconditional’.
They want to make to persuade the Eurocrats to make it harder for citizens of other member states to access benefits within days or weeks of arriving in another member state.
The letter has led to the discussion at Friday’s meeting. Britain has long been seeking changes to the rules on entitlement to welfare.
However, the chances of success were limited while the UK government was a lone voice in Brussels.
The fact that Germany, in particular, has joined the campaign will place huge new pressure on the other member states to agree to tighten the rules.
Speaking last night, Mrs May said: ‘We are already taking tough action in this country to stamp out the abuse of free movement, to protect our benefits system and public services.
‘We will not allow this country to be a soft touch but this isn’t just a UK problem – it will take the joint efforts of all our EU partners to tackle it.’
It comes at a time of heightened tensions between the British government and the EU.
Last week, the European Commission announced it was taking Britain to court for insisting migrants pass a ‘right to reside’ test before they can access some State handouts.
Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, is planning to defy the EC and make existing restrictions even tougher.