OAP ‘Must Go Blind To Get NHS Care’

A pensioner will have to lose his sight in one eye before health chiefs will consider treating him, a leading charity for the blind has claimed. Leslie Howard, 76, from Acomb, York, was diagnosed with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in his right eye last November.

He needs special drugs to save his sight but it is claimed the local primary care trust (PCT) will only consider funding them once he has gone blind in one eye and developed wet AMD in his second eye.

The Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) claims Mr Howard’s only hope is to pay for private treatment – wet AMD can cause sight loss in as little as three months and requires prompt treatment. But Mr Howard, who has been in public service most of his life, says he cannot afford the private care bill of more than £6,000 a year.

Mr Howard said: “I can’t believe I’m being left to go blind in one eye. I’ve spent most of my working life devoted to public service – I was in the Army, police and prison service – and I’ve never failed to pay my dues.

“I’ve paid literally tens of thousands of pounds in taxes and to know that I will now lose my sight because I can’t afford private treatment is diabolical. My wife and I have arthritis of the spine and if I lose my sight, we’ll end up housebound, and that will destroy us.”

In a statement, the North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust said: “There is no National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidance for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration with anti-VEGF drugs.

“In agreement with other PCTs in the region, North Yorkshire and York PCT has agreed to fund anti-VEGF drugs for patients for whom it has been evidenced that this will be an effective treatment. This is based on an assessment of the patients against an agreed clinical criteria established by the PCTs.”