Child cancer experts criticise NHS spending on proton beam treatment for Southsea boy Ashya King

Ashya King
Ashya King

Its time to make all those miles count...

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The NHS has been criticised by child cancer specialists for agreeing to fund treatment in the Czech Republic for Southsea boy Ashya King.

The BBC reported that it had seen a letter sent by leading doctors to NHS chief executive Simon Stevens saying the decision could jeopardise Ashya’s progress and ‘result in the tragedy of children not being cured.’

Five-year-old Ashya is now in a hospital in Spain, where his family say he is making progress after receiving treatment at a proton beam centre in Prague.

The NHS agreed to meet the £80,000 costs in the wake of Ashya being taken abroad by his parents because they were unhappy at the treatment he was receiving at Southampton General Hospital.

It is reported that the letter was sent the day before the NHS confirmed it would fund Ashya’s treatment at the clinic in the Czech Republic, despite the misgivings of doctors at Southampton.

The BBC said that the authors, who it had decided not to identify, were all child cancer care specialists.

Their letter is reported to say: ‘We have profound reservations regarding the ongoing clinical management of this child and feel that actual harm may have been done by jeopardising the chance of a cure.’

The BBC said it had been told by one of the experts that children with Ashya’s type of tumour, medulloblastoma, were not normally sent abroad for proton therapy because it could delay the treatment, which it was vital was started with weeks of surgery.

He added that the decision to fund Ashya’s treatment would undermine confidence in the system, causing chaos in the management of children’s cancers in the UK and a ‘free for all’ among other parents.

The letter is reported to say: ‘It is not unreasonable to suggest this may result in the tragedy of children not being cured when they should have been.’

The BBC added that in a statement, NHS England said: ‘Given that Ashya had travelled to Prague it was clearly best that he continue to be treated uninterrupted so the NHS agreed to fund this care, as requested by his parents, in accordance with relevant European cross-border arrangements.’