Relief and rage at ‘postcode lottery’

Brain tumour patient Mark Bannister has finally been given the potentially life-extending drug he has been fighting for. Mark is pictured with his wife Karen G120310-1a
Brain tumour patient Mark Bannister has finally been given the potentially life-extending drug he has been fighting for. Mark is pictured with his wife Karen G120310-1a

A FORMER soldier from Gainsborough who was refused potentially life-extending cancer drugs because of where he lives, has finally got the treatment he needs.

Mark Bannister, 37, of Springfield Close, is battling a brain tumour which surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy have failed to halt.

Brain tumour patient Mark Bannister has finally been given the potentially life-extending drug he has been fighting for. Mark is pictured with his wife Karen G120310-1b

Brain tumour patient Mark Bannister has finally been given the potentially life-extending drug he has been fighting for. Mark is pictured with his wife Karen G120310-1b

Cancer drug Avastin can slow tumour growth in some cases, and Mark has been fighting to get it.

“It could add a few months onto my life, and if I don’t try it I’ll never know,” said Mark, who lives with wife Karen and children Sophie, six and Thomas, five.

But the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) does not currently licence Avastin for prescription by GPs.

So the £21,000 funding must be met by the Cancer Drugs Fund. Each local health authority has an allocated fund to spend on cancer treatments which are otherwise unavailable.

NHS East Midlands, which Mark’s GP practice falls under, does not routinely fund Avastin for patients with Mark’s condition.

After six months fighting to get the decision overturned, a panel of experts rejected the appeal in January, stating there was no evidence Mark would benefit from Avastin.

“We were devastated, but we knew what we had to do,” said Karen.

Mark went and registered with a GP in Sheffield, which comes under the Yorkshire and Humber Cancer Drugs Fund.

“Almost immediately the wheels were in motion and I had my application approved within 48 hours,” said Mark.

But it has come at a price. Mark is having to live part time with a friend in Sheffield, to stay registered at the practice.

And the tumour and the stress is taking its toll on his body, causing him to lose movement in his left arm and leg.

“We’re disgusted that this whole postcode lottery situation exists. It’s not right that Mark should be using money from the Yorkshire and Humber Cancer Drugs Fund, which is meant for someone else,” said Karen.

In a letter shown to the Standard by the Bannister family, the chair of the East Midlands Cancer Drugs Fund stated the review panel was ‘perplexed’ as to why Mark did not move practices earlier, as other patients had done.

“I felt insulted to hear this. Not once had anyone told me I could move to another doctor,” said Mark.

Karen said: “We feel cheated that we’ve gone about this the legal way, only to be knocked back and told to do it the illegal way.”

NHS East Midlands said: “We appreciate the decision reached by the East Midlands Cancer Drugs Fund (EM CDF) to not fund Avastin for Mr Bannister and his family is upsetting but would like to stress that it follows thorough consideration by cancer specialists from across the region.”

Andrew Wilson, chief executive of the Rarer Cancers Foundation, which has worked with Mark to try and access Avastin, said the situation was unacceptable.

“This is an unacceptable situation when money in the Cancer Drugs Fund is left unspent. There should be an urgent inquiry into the conduct of NHS East Midlands in this case so that other patients and families do not have to go through the same traumatic experience when they are desperately ill.”