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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 August 2006, 08:18 GMT 09:18 UK
Cancer therapy denied due to cost
Prostate images
Men in Wales will not be funded for brachytherapy, say health chiefs
A cancer charity says health chiefs have done a U-turn on funding a form of treatment for men with prostate cancer.

The Prostate Cancer Charity said it had assurances that men in Wales could have brachytherapy, a type of radiotherapy.

But Health Commission Wales (HCW) has confirmed it will not pay for the treatment due to its costs.

Velindre Hospital, near Cardiff, said it may lose a 130,000 charity donation to set up a brachytherapy centre. HCW is in discussion with the hospital.

The charity claimed in June that men in Wales were being denied brachytherapy, when the treatment was available in Scotland and England.

It is essential that high-quality prostate cancer services are offered consistently across the UK
John Neate

It claimed the situation was another example of a healthcare postcode lottery as brachytherapy had been available for two years until HCW withdrew funding for it.

The charity said it was given assurances from HCW that a form of the treatment would be available.

Brachytherapy is becoming recognised as an alternative to both radical surgery and standard radiotherapy for prostate cancer treatment.

It involves radioactive seeds being implanted directly into the prostate gland.

'Regret'

The Prostate Cancer Charity said its advantage was its "sheer convenience," with far shorter stays in hospital.

In June, HCW's national commissioning advisory board approved a paper on the treatment, subject to a recommendation that HCW worked with Velindre NHS Trust, a cancer care centre, to look at possibly establishing a local service in the future.

HCW has since decided "with regret" that the costs of a specialist centre would be beyond its budget.

HCW said: "It has become clear that the specialist centres are unable to offer services within the budget HCW has identified.

"Low dose brachytherapy has not been identified as a priority for investment in 2006, and as a result cannot be fully accommodated within HCW's commissioning plan for this year. "

Care

HCW said prostate cancer patients would still be able to have surgery or standard radiotherapy locally and it has offered to meet The Prostate Cancer Charity's chief executive, John Neate.

It added that six patients who were to have brachytherapy have since been authorised for treatment.

But Mr Neate said the decision not to fund a full service was "totally unreasonable".

He said: "Time after time we are told that the NHS should be about patient-centred care and choice.

"I see no evidence of that in this decision or in the approach of Health Commission Wales. It is essential that high-quality prostate cancer services are offered consistently across the UK."

'Cheaper'

Meanwhile, Andrea Hague, director of cancer services at Velindre NHS Trust, said the hospital was still in negotiations with the freemasons' charity which had offered 130,000 towards the capital costs of establishing a brachytherapy centre.

She said: "We put a business case in to Health Commission Wales within the last 12 months to provide a [brachytherapy] service in Cardiff.

"They said they could not support the business case. They felt they could get the service cheaper in England."

She added: "We're very conscious that the [charitable] money is a set-aside. We're talking to them about the money."

A HCW spokesman said: "HCW are continuing to discuss the possibility of developing a low dose brachytherapy service with Velindre NHS Trust."




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