If I had not been given a stem cell transplant, I would be dead by now. At 22, I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, an aggressive form of blood cancer. Doctors told me a transplant of healthy stem cells from an unrelated donor was my only hope. Last month, I was thrilled to celebrate three years in remission. I hope the cancer never returns, but if it does, my only chance of survival will be another transplant. Except this time around, I might not be given that chance.
Two weeks ago, NHS England announced it would stop routinely funding second stem cell transplants for patients who have relapsed more than a year after their first transplant. NHS England, the body which oversees the budget for commissioning NHS services, has ruled that the treatment is “not currently affordable”, even though it was widely available in England before 2013, and is routinely given to patients in Europe and the US.
In a letter to The Times Anthony Nolan, the blood cancer charity and stem cell registry that coordinates all donors for UK transplants, joined forces with leading haematologists to condemn the decision, stating that “NHS England is ignoring the advice of the clinical community, thereby effectively handing [most of these] patients a death sentence”. The charity delivered an open letter with 18,000 signatures to Jeremy Hunt last Thursday, calling on him to urge NHS England to reconsider their decision.
Full story in The Guardian 28 July 2016