NHS will fund only local care for octuplets

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The "cash for foetuses" controversy surrounding Mandy Allwood, the woman pregnant with eight babies, took a new twist last night when the Midlands health authority responsible for her care said it would not pay for her specialist treatment in London.

An assumption that Ms Allwood's medical bills would be met by the News of the World, newspaper with which she and her partner Paul Hudson signed a six-figure deal, turned out to be false. Solihull Health Authority said Ms Allwood's GP had contacted itasking if it would pay for her care under Professor Kyprios Nicolaides, a renowned ante- natal expert at King's College Hospital, London.

Senior health authority officials yesterday rejected the request, arguing that Ms Allwood, 31, would receive expert care far more cheaply in a Birmingham maternity hospital. A spokesman denied that the deal with the newspaper had influenced the decision.

Dr Michael Deakin, a consultant in public health medicine, said: "We would have reached the same decision whether or not a newspaper was involved. It is important for her to have excellent maternity care locally and it is available. It is ridiculous that she should be living in Solihull but being cared for by someone in London."

However, a consultant obstetrician in the Midlands, who asked not to be named, said that the health authority was bluffing. "There is no doubt that a pregnancy like this requires the top-level care and equipment that is available in the NHS, and that is at King's," he said. "What they don't want to do is fork out tax-payers' money - and who can blame them - for the care of someone who may receive hundreds of thousands of pounds for babies born on the NHS."

Ms Allwood, who is 14 weeks pregnant, has been under the care of Professor Nicolaides since she was referred to him by the private hospital where she underwent fertility treatment with drugs.

He has appealed to the News of the World to cancel its contract with the couple. Professor Nicolaides, who is refusing to comment on the new development, has advised Ms Allwood to undergo selective abortion of six foetuses to safeguard her own health and ensure she has some surviving babies.

A spokesman for King's said that the hospital had no choice but to refuse treatment for Ms Allwood if her local health authority would not fund it. The News of the World said that Ms Allwood's treatment was a private matter for herself and her doctors.

However, Max Clifford, the PR guru representing the couple, said: "Mandy would be delighted if she could return home to Solihull and get the high level of care and equipment needed for her safety and that of her babies. But she has been told by Professor Nicolaides that she needs to be in London."