Cancer victim Anna battles for fair deal

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EAST Fife Mail readers are being urged to sign up to help a Levenmouth woman receive a life-extending treatment.

Methilhill nurse Anna Flaws is the focus of a campaign designed to help people across Scotland.

A petition, lauched with the help of Central Fife MP Lindsay Roy, is asking the Scottish Government to ensure people in Scotland have similar access to National Health Service treatment for cancer, and other illnesses, as currently exists in England.

Local support is being sought and the petition is going to as many shops, social centres, factories and community centres as possible.

Anna (49), an NHS mental health nurse, has so far been denied the drug Herceptin on the NHS to treat her oesophageal cancer, because it is not recommended by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC).

She has paid for treatment herself since she was diagnosed in November 2010 – and told she may only have about nine months to live.

However, she fears her funds could dry up by March 2012, despite the drug giving her fresh energy and a far superior quality of life.

Herceptin would probably cost around £40,000 a year but NHS Fife had turned down her bid for funding, despite her testing favourably for it and a professional recommendation from her consultant.

Anna said she was “disappointed” with the ruling, while MP Mr Roy believed NHS Fife was “hiding behind the SMS decision” when it had the flexibility to treat exceptional cases differently.

Mr Roy is due to meet this week with NHS Fife chairman Professor James McGoldrick.

He has told Mr Roy the SMC did not consider Herceptin’s use for oesophageal cancer to be cost-effective, but he felt unable to comment on the decision.

The Professor added in a letter that Fife had to ensure its finite budget was used to the best effect across a variety of needs.

A combinaton of “clinically robust national and local mechanisms” was used and this applied in Anna’s case.

“Available treatments have to be targeted at those most likely to derive most benefit and, unfortunately, this means not everyone will necessarily have access to every available treatment,” said Professor McGoldrick.

“I do not under-estimate the difficulties this creates for patients like Ms Flaws and their families, and also for clinicians working in the NHS, striving to do their best for patients.”

Mr Roy said: “Anna has dealt with this with exceptional courage and dignity.”

Anna said: “I feel good within myself – I feel more energetic and quite lucky still to be here. I am amazed by the support we have had, from people I know and people I don’t know.”

A quiet Christmas with daughter Julie was ahead and Anna added: “It will be a special Christmas –- then we’ll try to make another one.”