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EDITIONS
Thursday, 13 June, 2002, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
'I had to pay to save my sight'
Photodynamic therapy uses lasers to rectify sight
Jean Simpson was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration in September 2001. Denied treatment on the NHS, she was forced to go private to ensure she didn't go blind.

Mrs Simpson, 66, first suspected she may have had a problem while sitting in traffic on an otherwise normal day.

"I got stuck in traffic one day," she says. "I was just sitting there and I rubbed my eye. The van in front of me disappeared and became a white line."

Concerned, Mrs Simpson who lives in Southend-on-Sea in Essex made an urgent appointment with her GP.


They have to make it available. More people go blind with this than they do with cataracts and glaucoma. It is just silly

She was seen the next day and was referred to hospital for tests.

However, by coincidence she also had an appointment with her optician on that day. He referred her immediately to A&E.

Diagnosis

There, Mrs Simpson was diagnosed with AMD and told she needed treatment within 10 days if the sight in her right eye was to be saved.

At the same time, she was also told she would have to wait six weeks for an appointment with a hospital consultant.

Then she was told the treatment photo-dynamic therapy (PDT) was not available on the NHS and that her only option was to pay for it privately.

"I was bloody angry," she says. "When I did get seen I was told that this treatment couldn't be done on the NHS, that it was too expensive."

Mrs Simpson's consultant offered to carry out the treatment if she could pay for it. She underwent two treatment sessions soon afterwards.

"I paid for the first one and for the second one I took out a loan. I dread to think what might have happened if I couldn't have afforded to pay for the treatments."


I dread to think what might have happened if I couldn't have afforded to pay for the treatments

Mrs Simpson is critical of the medical care she received on the NHS.

"I was very scared and very angry. My husband did a lot of research on it. We didn't know what to do really. I was really scared. I thought I was going blind."

Guidelines

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence has published guidelines suggesting that PDT is only made available on the NHS to those who have lost their sight in one eye.

While that recommendation is open to appeal, it would mean the people like Mrs Simpson would still not receive the treatment on the NHS.

She says she is "disgusted" by the decision. "If you look at it sensibly, social services have to do so much more if someone goes blind. Surely it is cheaper to pay for the operation in the first place than to have to pay for the care they will need without it.

She urged the government to ensure PDT is made available to patients.

"They have to make it available. More people go blind with this than they do with cataracts and glaucoma. It is just silly. It has got to be made available."

See also:

13 Jun 02 | Health
12 Apr 02 | Health
28 Nov 01 | Health
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