Eye treatment funding refused for 27-year-old from Cawston who could lose sight

Vicky Smith, from Cawston, who needs eye treatment to save her sight.

Vicky Smith, from Cawston, who needs eye treatment to save her sight. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY


A 27-year-old woman from Cawston is urging health authorities to change their funding criteria after fears she may have to pay thousands of pounds to save her sight.

"Knowing at the age of 27 I could be partially blind is frustrating."

Vicky Smith, of Gayford Road, first noticed she was losing vision in her right eye in December 2009, and has been told because of her age she may have to get urgent treatment privately, which could cost in excess of £6,000.

“After under-going tests at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital I was diagnosed with punctate inner choroidopathy (PIC),” she explained.

“I was told it was something I had to live with and to come back if it got worse.”

As her condition deteriorated she returned to the N&N in August last year complaining of worsening sight loss and headaches but was told it was natural progress of the condition.

“By March I couldn’t see a lot and had increased blind spots so I went back for more tests,” she said.

“My consultant then came and explained to me that I could lose my sight completely in one eye.”

The condition causes blood vessels to burst near the retina and predominantly occurs in short-sighted females, between 18 and 40-years-old.

It can be treated with a series of avastin injections - the drug used to fight against age related wet-macular degeneration disease, usually found in people over 50-years-old.

But because the conditions are similar Miss Smith, a behaviour support assistant working in Norwich, has been offered treatment, but does not meet the criteria to receive it freely on the NHS.

Her consultant Andy Glenn, ophthalmologist at the N&N, met with the Primary Care Trust (PCT) on Tuesday to discuss funding but an application was rejected on the grounds that Miss Smith is “not an exceptional case.”

She added: “If I don’t receive my treatment within the next month the condition will be too far gone to treat with the avastin injections.

“I could need at least six injections, which cost up to £800 each, and that’s not including the £200 per-time aftercare cost.

“Knowing at the age of 27 I could be partially blind is frustrating but I hope by me speaking out about it that other young suffers in this situation won’t get themselves into debt trying to fund it. I hope the PCT will see there is a need for this drug at this age.”

A spokesman from NHS Norfolk and Waveney said there are a number of treatments which the NHS does not routinely fund to ensure resources are used equitably.

“NHS Norfolk and Waveney prioritises resource allocation based on evidence of the clinical effectiveness and safety of treatments, their cost effectiveness and affordability, and on which interventions provide the best health outcomes,” they added.

A spokesman from the RNIB said: “If there’s an approved treatment available which will save a person’s sight then we’d strongly urge it is given to the patient. It’s vitally important that people diagnosed with sight threatening conditions have the opportunity to receive proven and timely treatments.”

The decision is currently being appealed by a team from the N&N.

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