Patients denied innovative treatment because of administrative delays

November 10, 2009 2:14 PM

Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Minister, Peter Black, has asked the Minister for Health to intervene to fix the problems currently being faced by the Diving Disease Research Centre in Cardiff, which offers treatment using a Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber.

Patients from Cardiff and the Valleys are able to get ambulance transport to the centre, but those living in Bridgend, Swansea and further west are unable to. The lack of a Service Level Agreement between the Ambulance Service and the ABMU Health Board means that any patient that is too ill to drive or get public transport is unable to get treatment

Currently the centre is sitting empty despite there being at least 11 patients in Wales who require treatment at the centre. This is due to Health Commission Wales repeatedly cancelling meetings at which funding for patient s treatment was due to be discussed. Some patients have been waiting months for funding decisions to be taken and are still waiting. So far only one patient has been approved for NHS treatment at the new centre in Cardiff.

Mr. Black raised this issue with the Minister for Health during Health Minister s Questions on 5th November. The Minister has asked Mr Black to write to her detailing the problems being faced. Mr Black has now written to the Minister for the sixth time on this issue.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy can be used for a range of medical problems such as burns, skin grafts, radiotherapy damaged tissues and problem wounds. In an emergency it can be used for conditions such as gas gangrene, carbon monoxide poisoning, cyanide poisoning, air embolism and decompression illness. Many consultants will not operate on patients who need restructuring work unless they have had hyperbaric treatment. It involves putting the patient in a pressured oxygen chamber in order to stimulate blood and tissue.

Mr Black said:

"The problems being faced by patients needing this treatment are simply due to poor administration by other health bodies. As a result patients have to face long waits for treatment that can have a dramatic effect on their quality of life. This should not be the case and can be easily rectified by simply having the meetings to approve patient funding instead of cancelling them."

"The issue with transporting patients is another one that could be solved by putting the relevant agreements into place. It is simply absurd to think that it is possible for a patient to be denied treatment simply because they cannot get to the hospital. We would not let this occur for other treatments so why is it being allowed to occur for those who require hyperbaric oxygen therapy."

"The Minister has to put political pressure on Health Commission Wales, the Ambulance Service and Health Boards to address these issues. The issues are neither complex nor expensive in health service terms and could be fixed with the exercise of political will. There is concern that if the centre does not start receiving patients soon, then the service will become unsustainable and may be lost. This would mean patients would have to travel to Plymouth which would be at a far greater cost to the Welsh NHS."

"I have brought this to the Minister s attention a number of times, yet there does not seem to be any enthusiasm to address the problems that the centre is facing. The variety of uses for this treatment means it could be a fantastic facility for Wales, but that is currently being squandered."

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