MP helps child with cancer get operation abroad

NHS funds cancer treatment abroad ~


After intervention by MP



Cancer patient Zac Knighton-Smith had surgery in Germany

when NHS cancelled two planned operations.

Luckily for Zac, his mother doesn’t hang around when something threatens her child.  She had managed to get Zac on a trial in Germany, funded by NHS.  The doctors there agreed that Zac would benefit from surgery, and he returned home for an operation.

After the NHS cancelled two planned operations, Zac’s mother Sam Knighton contacted the centre in Germany, who agreed they would carry out the surgery.  A week after Zac’s second operation had been cancelled by the NHS, he was in Germany being operated on.  He had four Lymph nodes removed in a life-saving operation for Neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer.


Operation Postponed twice

Originally Zac was due to have an operation on December 22nd, which was postponed.

It was re-scheduled for January 4th, but again cruelly cancelled, half an hour before Zac and his family were due to leave for hospital to have the operation.  The reason given was the same as the first postponement:  a shortage of suitable Intensive Care beds.

By this time his mother was concerned that time was getting short, and decided to take Zac to Germany for an immediate operation without any delays.  The only downside was she had to pay around £8,000 for her son’s treatment.

MP’s Intervention

At first the NHS refused to reimburse Mrs Knighton Smith for the costs of the operation,  but after Rushden and Wellingborough Tory MP Peter Bone intervened, they climbed down.

In a statement, NHS Northamptonshire said: “We can confirm that the cost of treatment is being borne by the NHS.”

What had happened

The Knighton-Smith family, who flew to Greifswald in Germany for the operation last week, initially had an appointment for Zac to have the operation in the UK on 22nd December, last year.

Then, ” the surgeon’s secretary told us that the surgeon was unable to keep to the appointment due to a lack of paediatric intensive care beds,”said  Mrs Knighton-Smith.

Another appointment was made for 4th January, but this was cruelly cancelled 30 minutes before they were due to leave home for the hospital.

This time Mrs. Knighton Smith was “straight on the phone to the consultants in Germany to see if they could help.”  Zac had had treatment there before, and the Germans confirmed they would carry out the operation.

Meanwhile, whilst Zac was recovering, their MP was asking in the House of Commons  “Can we have a statement from the Health Minister on what went wrong in this country?”

And as a result of him highlighting Zac’s case in such a public place, this later led to the NHS agreeing to fund Zac’s operation.

Mrs Knighton-Smith said they were pleased to get their money back.

“This has made a huge difference to us because obviously we don’t have the pressure of having to worry about where the money is coming from,” she said.


Is this the time to do some sensible cost analysis on NHS treatment;  on the moral and also the monetary side?

Isn’t it time for the British public to accept that they might not be able to have their operation near home, where it is easy for friends and family to visit.  Instead, could it be more cost-effective to send patients further afield, even abroad, and save waiting times and cancellations?

After all, with hospitals trying to send patients home as soon as possible, often no sooner are you awake after a procedure, than you are told “you can go home”.  And with Eurostar and low-cost airlines criss-crossing Europe, it could be quicker to go to a French or Belgian hospital than travel to London from your home.

But the two postponements must have been an enormous strain on Zac and his family.

So, it would be interesting to know what would the cost have been if Zac had had his operation in the UK?  And how does this compare with what the NHS were charged by the German hospital?  One important factor is the much lower rate of MRSA and other hospital-acquired infections in Europe – a factor which is often not accounted for in NHS costings.

Talking about costs to Marion Schneider, owner of the 500-bed Klinic Bad Sulza in Germany,  she said if they had the same administration costs as the NHS, “insurance companies would not pay”.  In Italy the other day I was offered a DEXA scan (no waiting), for 50 Euros (about £40).  My NHS hospital would charge £120 if I paid privately.

It could be that the tax-payer paid less for Zac to be operated on in Germany, than it would have cost the NHS to carry out the operation in Britain.  And Zac and his family were spared as huge amount of anguish.

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