Tuesday 06 August 2002
by Malcolm Prior
FOR 26 years Hampshire mum Anne Sinclair served as a nurse dedicated to helping hundreds of people through illness.
But the public health service she worked tirelessly for stands guilty of betraying her - for not funding the vital but costly medication the multiple sclerosis sufferer desperately needs.
Without the NHS cash, 50-year-old Anne has had to find £229 every month for the past year-and-a-half to pay for her weekly injections that fight off debilitating relapses for MS, a disease that strikes the central nervous system and has no known cure.
And the mother-of-two has been warned it could be yet another 18 months before she can have her drugs on the NHS.
Not surprisingly, Anne feels like she has been "kicked in the teeth" by the health service she put so much into.
Anne, of Worthy Down, Winchester, who became a nurse with the NHS when she was just 18 and went on to become a captain in the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps, told the Daily Echo: "It really is a kick in the teeth. It's so annoying to hear the lies put out by the government, saying they are going to do something for these people. It's all so immoral.
"When I went to see my consultant he looked very, very despondent. He wanted to prescribe it for me but said the neurologists had not seen the funding yet."
The government had promised the money to all MS sufferers taking the controversial drug beta interferon back in February.
The drug had been criticised by medical experts for being too costly and of limited use while its variable availability across the country added fuel to claims that the NHS was running a "post code lottery".
Despite medical guidance that it should not be provided on the NHS, Whitehall announced a £50m pilot scheme that would allow up to 9,000 patients to claim funding for the drug.
Six months later, Anne - together with hundreds of other MS sufferers across Hampshire who meet the strict criteria needed to claim the cash help - has yet to see the money materialise.
It has only been with the help of two army charities that Anne, who was diagnosed with MS 20 years ago, has been able to keep using the drug.
She says it has kept her condition from deteriorating and has warded off the relapses that leave her unable to carry out the most basic of tasks.
"It has kept me on a plateau. That's the whole idea of the drug. It is not a cure. It is to keep us stable. I am no further disabled after 18 months," she said
A spokeswoman for Southampton General Hospital's Wessex Neurological Centre, which Anne has to visit every three months, said Hampshire's health authority chiefs were still in talks with the government over when the scheme will finally be introduced.
"There is a series of people speaking to each other to try to expedite this.
"My understanding is that those people who are currently paying for their treatment will get it on the NHS. However at the moment it's all being finalised.
"I do not know exactly where or how the funding is being split up. We are working to resolve this as soon as possible but we cannot say when it will happen," she said.
David Harrison, spokesman for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, urged health chiefs not to waste any more time in getting the scheme up and running.
But he warned that it could be another year-and-a-half before all eligible sufferers begin receiving their medication on the NHS.
Mr Harrison said: "The difficulty here is that there are problems in getting this scheme moving and getting the infrastructure set up.
"That's not all together surprising. It's not just a question of people
getting the drugs. They have to be monitored over a period of time so we
can get better information about the drug."
© Copyright 2002 Newsquest Media Group