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GRAVESEND: Grandmother's bid for cancer drug funding changes NHS

2:30pm Saturday 8th August 2009

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By Michael Purton »

A CANCER-STRICKEN grandmother’s successful battle for NHS funding for drugs that kept her alive has revolutionised the healthcare system in north Kent.

In April, Gravesend resident Evelyn McCarroll, who has incurable lung cancer, won her appeal to get NHS funding for the Tarceva tablets that were prolonging her life.

NHS West Kent, following NICE guidelines, had previously refused to pay for the £1,740 a month drug because the 58-year-old had already had two courses of chemotherapy.

Following this case, the primary care trust, which covers north Kent, has now changed the way its Individual Funding Requests (IFR) panel hears patients’ pleas for treatment not recommended by NICE.

An NHS West Kent spokesman said: “Patients will now be able to address the panel in person, whereas previously their consultant would have to write to the panel, who would make a decision behind closed doors.”

The spokesman said Mrs McCarroll’s case had influenced the decision, as had a consultation period where doctors and patients gave their opinion on how to improve the system.

Two weeks ago doctors discovered Mrs McCarroll’s cancer has spread across her chest and caused her right lung to collapse, meaning she may only have months to live.

The Ingoldsby Road resident was too ill to speak to News Shopper, but her son Jason Styles said: “She is glad her appeal set the ball rolling and hopes other people will now get the treatment they need.”

The 39-year-old added: “She has been taken off the Tarceva tablets as they weren’t making a difference any more.

“There is nothing she can do to fight the cancer now. She will die.”

Mr Styles, who also lives in Ingoldsby Road, says he is proud his mother will leave behind a legacy of giving patients a better chance of getting NHS funding for the treatment they need.

Mrs McCarroll, a mother of three and grandmother of four, was diagnosed with lung cancer three years ago.

After two lots of chemotherapy at Darent Valley Hospital were unsuccessful, her consultant Dr Shah recommended Tarceva, which she began taking in December.

Together they applied to the PCT for funding for the drug, but were turned down and unsuccessfully appealed twice.

Mrs McCarroll’s friends and family were having to raise the money for it, leading her to say she felt the NHS had “given up” on her life, until the PCT accepted her third appeal in April.

In 1990 Mrs McCarroll and her family raised around £750,000 for an MRI scanner for their local hospital at the time, Joyce Green in Dartford.

This was after her 16-year-old son Jamie died from head injuries sustained during a fight.

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