Cancer patient told ‘Brexit chaos’ has indefinitely delayed life-saving treatment

‘It’s a farce, this is my life on the line here,’ says Richard Kelly 

Alex Matthews-King
Health Correspondent
Thursday 02 May 2019 11:30
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Cancer patient told 'Brexit chaos' has indefinitely delayed life-saving treatment

A cancer patient has been told his best chance of a cure has been delayed indefinitely ”because of Brexit”.

Richard Kelly was due to start the cutting-edge treatment known as selective internal radiation therapy (Sirt) for cancer in his liver last month, alongside chemotherapy.

But now the 53-year-old has claimed that his oncologist at Bristol Royal Infirmary told him: “The treatment had been delayed due to Brexit”.

Mr Kelly told The Independent his consultant said: “NHS England were unable to set a budget for this kind of treatment because of the chaotic nature of the Brexit negotiations and the actual leaving of the European Union. Therefore this essential treatment was delayed, with no suggestion of a date when it would be available.”

Consultants proposed he undergo the “groundbreaking” treatment method after they found signs the bowel cancer he was initially being treated for had spread to his liver and was “incurable” with surgery - though it could be contained with chemotherapy.

“This Sirt offers a possibility – and I stress possibility – of a cure for liver cancer without surgery,” he added.

Theresa May agreed to delay Britain’s scheduled departure date for leaving the European Union last month in a bid to limit the damaging consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

Before Britain voted to leave the bloc and in the wake of the decision to trigger Article 50, experts warned that crashing out of the EU could particularly harm the NHS and the most vulnerable patients.

Fears that cancer patients could suffer delays to treatment because of the inability to import radioactive isotopes were raised repeatedly.

Drug delays and the loss of EU-trained radiographers, cancer nurses and other specialists could all have an impact on care.

Now Mr Kelly said he is living with the consequences, before the UK even leaves.

“It’s a farce, this is my life on the line here,” he said.

Vote Leave’s campaign bus falsely claimed leaving the EU would free £350m a week for the NHS.

While his doctors did not discuss whether other patients were affected, he said he had heard other accounts from friends of Brexit delays for others.

“I can’t be the only one – how serious is this going to get? We haven’t even left,” he added. “That big red bus said £350m a week going into the NHS, yet we can’t even afford cancer treatment. This is the reality of it – thanks a bunch, Nigel Farage.”

However NHS England denied that Brexit was a factor in Sirt being delayed.

“The NHS introduced new guidelines for this treatment last month so that every patient who meets the criteria can receive it in one of the 10 specialist centres across the country," a spokesperson said.

"This has absolutely nothing to do with Brexit, and we are pursuing this case with the trust to ensure Mr Kelly gets the right treatment for his condition.”

The Independent has approached University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust for comment.

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