Human Rights Lawyers Instructed By Woman To Challenge Lawfulness Of Hospital Panel Decision
A judicial review hearing takes place in the High Court next week after a mum-of-two from Wales was granted a hearing to challenge a decision not approving funding for her to receive potentially life-saving surgery.
Maria Wallpott, from Gwent, was diagnosed with stage four appendix cancer in April this year. As the cancer spread, she developed an ovarian tumour. A colorectal surgeon recommended she undergo hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) and cytoreductive surgery (CRS), a specific procedure which involves flushing the abdomen with heated anti-cancer medications following the removal of the maximum amount of the visible tumour.
However, while these treatments are automatically available to patients in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, they are currently only granted in exceptional circumstances in Wales.
The mum-of-two’s specialist oncology NHS doctor’s request for funding the treatment was refused by the Welsh Individual Patients Funding Requests (IPFR) panel on behalf of the Welsh Health Specialist Services Committee (WHSSC) and Aneurin Bevan University Health Board in July. This was on the basis that, despite her own doctor’s support for the treatment, the panel said she failed to meet the criteria and the information provided didn’t demonstrate that she was likely to benefit significantly from the treatment.
Further information was submitted by the woman’s medical team in August in support of the application, but again it was refused.
The woman instructed public law and human rights experts at Irwin Mitchell to bring a judicial review against the panel’s decision, arguing it was unlawful and it should reconsider approval of the treatment. The legal team states the purpose of the medical procedures are to extend her life, potentially save her life and improve her quality of life.
The hearing begins on 1 December at the High Court in Cardiff and is expected to last two days.
Expert Opinion“It is deeply concerning that our client has been refused treatment which she believes could significantly increase her chances of surviving longer and also improve her quality of life.
If she lived in another part of the UK, there would be no issue with her being given access to the treatment and, while there are criteria requirements in Wales, we believe she meets these. She has waited for many months for the panel’s decision.
We’re grateful that the decision is to be reviewed in court and look forward to the start of the hearing. In the meantime, we’ll continue to support our client throughout the process.”
Katy Cowans - Associate Solicitor
Ahead of the hearing, Maria, who is in her 50s, said: “I feel like I’m the victim of an NHS postcode lottery. It’s devastating to know that if I lived in England, rather than Wales, I would be able to receive the surgery without having to go through all this.
“Because my cancer is rare, my medical team believed my case would meet the exceptional threshold in the WHSSC’s guidance, so to be refused the treatment twice is incredibly difficult to understand. My NHS doctors and nurses have been lovely, but I was distraught by the news that the panel and hospital management have overruled them.
“Within the last few months, I’ve found out that my cancer has continued to spread and it’s impossible to put into words how distressing this is. I’m profoundly worried about my future and the future of my children.
“All I want is to be given the best chance possible at surviving this. To know that this may not happen has left me feeling anxious and depressed. I also feel really angry that my life could potentially be saved by this treatment but the panel are refusing to authorise it. I don’t know why the panel are trying to say I am not exceptional.
“The treatment costs £73,000. The NHS funds many other surgeries and treatment that cost more than this. I can't understand why they have chosen to fight me rather than pay for the treatment.
“I’m a rare cancer patient and have been told that I can survive if I have this treatment. What is a cost of a life?
“The months of waiting have been agonising and I ask the health board panel to please reconsider their current decision and grant me funding for the treatment that could save my life.”