Page last updated at 21:37 GMT, Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Child refused brain tumour course

Anna Atkins and her daughter Iona
Iona Atkins will now undergo a course of radiotherapy

A mother has criticised the NHS for taking too long to refuse to pay for her six-year-old daughter to have treatment for a brain tumour in the US.

Iona Atkins, of Shirley, West Midlands, was put forward for proton therapy by her oncologist at Birmingham Children's Hospital.

Her mother Anna said a course of more risky radiotherapy was delayed for a month before NHS managers said no.

They said they had refused it because it would have cost 170,000.

Iona will now have to undergo a course of radiotherapy.

'Quite a delay'

Mrs Atkins said: "They wanted to start radiotherapy in November and we delayed her starting radiotherapy on the chance that she'd be approved for proton therapy.

"So obviously now that she's been turned down there's quite a delay now and we need to start treatment."

She said that radiotherapy meant a greater risk of damage to her daughter's hearing, sight and IQ development.

Proton therapy in foreign clinics is available on the NHS but so far only five patients had been treated, BBC Midlands Today's health correspondent Michele Paduano said.

The therapy sees protons - positively charged particles - fired at a cancer cell, stealing the negatively charged electrons and thus damaging the cell.

'Hugely enthusiastic'

In radiotherapy, x-rays are fired, causing more damage to healthy cells.

In a statement, the NHS's Proton Clinical Reference Panel said: "Clearly one must have every sympathy for the difficult time that Iona and her family must be going through."

It said it had a new system, which started in April 2008, to send some patients abroad for proton treatment that was a "huge advance".

The panel added: "Where clinicians feel there is medical justification they can refer cases to be considered."

But a Birmingham hospital has said it could set up a proton therapy centre if the NHS agreed to fund the treatment.

The University Hospital said it would find the 75m investment needed to set up such a centre.

Mike Hallisey, a consultant, said: "We're hugely enthusiastic to develop it.

"We'd like to see a centre set up here as soon as the NHS is prepared to support it because we believe that we can deliver a good quality of care for a large section of the population."


Iono Atkins' mother is frustrated with the decision

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