NHS Refuses Veteran Carer Treatment To Halt Blindness

A war veteran who faces losing his sight because the NHS will not pay for treatment to save it said today the decision would leave his disabled wife “stranded and helpless”.

Dennis Devier is already blind in one eye as a result of an age-related eye disease and now faces total blindness unless he gets a course of new drugs. Oxfordshire primary care trust have refused him treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration.

The PCT said they will only pay for treatment for anti-VEGF treatment, which targets the growth of the protein in the eye that robs sufferers of sight, in “exceptional” cases. They have decided that the Henley 84-year-old’s situation is, “not considered exceptional within the context of other cases”.

Fearing for the care of his wife Frances, who is in her 80s and can barely walk, he has spent more than £8000 of his savings on private treatment. The former RAF flight engineer said: “What’s happening to me is completely outrageous. I’m told I’m not a special case despite the fact that I’m going blind, my wife is disabled, and I’m her carer. If I go blind, she will be completely stranded and helpless.”

“I’ve spent thousands of pounds on treatment that could save my sight, but this should be provided on the NHS. If I go blind, it’s going to cost the taxpayer thousands of pounds more to look after me – it’s complete madness. I don’t want to think what will happen to my wife and I if I lose my sight. We are worried sick. If this situation doesn’t change, we will be totally devastated.”

Steve Winyard, the head of campaigns at Royal National Institute for the Blind, said: “This is a desperate situation for Mr Devier. His PCT is leaving him to go blind even though sight-saving treatments are available on the NHS. It leaves you wondering who on earth can qualify for sight-saving treatment when a man who has already lost the sight in one eye and looks after his disabled wife can’t access treatment.”

Tom Bremridge, the chief executive of the Macular Disease Society, described the PCT’s decision as outrageous. “PCTs need to provide funding for treatments so that we can put an end to avoidable sight loss. There is a moral imperative to save the sight of people where we can,” he said. “It also makes no economic sense to deny treatment. The cost of supporting people with sight loss far outweighs the cost of treatment.”

Oxfordshire PCT’s spokeswoman was unavailable for comment today but in a letter to Mr Devier’s ophthalmologist the trust said that a review of funding of such treatment was “a high priority”. The letter stated that new policy guidelines would be issued “in April or May” but that “in the meantime each case must be decided on its merits”.