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Dad to Take Fight to Top

Byline: Mike Blackburn Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England), October 6, 2005

A desperate father-of-four refused vital cancer treatment on Teesside has vowed to take his fight to the European Court of Human Rights.

Jeff Hurrell, who was diagnosed with the lung cancer mesothelioma, said he will do whatever it takes to get the drug Alimta which could give him precious extra time with his family.

The Norton man hit out after a nurse in Somerset won a landmark battle this week to be prescribed drugs to treat breast cancer.

Barbara Clark was considering using the Human Rights Act to force the NHS to give her the treatment before Somerset Coast Primary Care Trust ruled to give her Herceptin.

As reported in the Gazette, Jeff has been told by North Tees Primary Care Trust that it will not fund his own recommended cancer treatment because Alimta is not yet approved by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).

It added that all Teesside PCTs formed part of a local Cancer Care Alliance, which as a group had agreed not to fund the pounds 24,000 treatment.

But the devastated dad challenged local health chiefs to "explain this situation to my eight-year-old son, Andrew, when I am gone". The 57-year-old, who believes he is a victim of "postcode prescribing" today welcomed his fellow cancer sufferer's victory against Somerset Coast PCT.

"I am looking at fighting my own battle any way I can, even if that means I have to take it to the European Court of Human Rights," he said.

Jeff was diagnosed in May with mesothelioma - caused by exposure to deadly asbestos fibres - for which there is no known cure.

Within two months he became one of the first Teesside patients to travel to Leicester's Glenfield Hospital for radical surgery which involved removing his right lung, heart lining and part of his diaphragm.

As he recovered, Jeff said doctors in Leicester and Teesside "all agreed" the best follow-up treatment was Alimta.

But he was left feeling "distraught, confused and let down" when he was told funding was not available for the drug on Teesside.

While licensed to treat mesothelioma in the UK, because it is not yet approved by NICE it is not widely available on the NHS. But it is prescribed in Scotland, Manchester, Liverpool and London.

* Do you believe you are a victim of "postcode prescribing"? Contact the Gazette newsdesk on 01642-234255 or email