Callous Comments Cause Concern for Kidney Cancer Patients


Callous Comments Cause Concern for Kidney Cancer Patients

At the recent annual NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) conference held in Manchester in December, the James Whale Kidney Cancer Patient Advisory Group was shocked at the language used by Sophie Christie, the Chief Executive of Birmingham North and East PCT. She spoke somewhat callously when describing the pressure new drugs put on the system and went so far as calling palliative care drugs “death deferring”.  It’s Ms Christie’s viewpoint that concerns the Cancer Patient Advisory Group, as she is the Chief Executive of the Primary Care Trust leading the new NHS Quango who have just been given a seat on the NICE appraisal committee which will give PCT’s significantly more control over which drugs are approved and which are not. This is especially critical to kidney cancer patients as it’s a type of cancer which cannot be treated with chemotherapy or radiation. Once kidney cancer spreads, then these medications are the only hope left for most of these patients.

According to Rose Woodward, a kidney cancer survivor and head of the James Whale Patient Advisory Group, “Cancer patients and families trying to come to terms with terminal cancer will be shocked to hear an NHS Director describe the “end of life” process in this way.  I thought it was a particularly insensitive speech. The NHS constitution, published just last year, promised to care for us to the end of our lives and treat us with care and compassion. It shouldn’t matter whether you are a heart patient, or just elderly, whether you are a cancer patient or victim of a serious accident, any patient facing a poor prognosis should expect the NHS to provide the best treatment available.   If we want to do our best for our people and improve the awful cancer survival rates in the UK, then the clinicians should decide who to treat and not accountants or managers.”

Nick Turkentine the Funds CEO said “Remarks like those made by Sophie Christie are never helpful when kidney cancer patients are so short of treatment options; and I fully understand why patients would be angry.” There has to be a way to strike a humane balance between cost and life. The cost is of course important, but when medication has the potential to offer a terminal patient additional quality time how can we put a price on that?

About the Fund: The James Whale Fund is the UK’s leading kidney cancer charity and was set up by broadcaster James Whale who lost a kidney to cancer in 2000; the head office is located in Cambridge city centre. Today James continues to lead a full and busy life, as do the majority of people who are diagnosed and treated early. Every year almost 6,200 people in the UK learn that they have kidney cancer; that’s over 16 people a day. And yet the condition – the tenth most common cancer among men – rarely attracts much public attention. Our mission at the James Whale Fund is to try and change that.

For more information about The James Whale Fund for Kidney Cancer please visit

Posted under Cancer Drugs, Rose Woodward

1 Comment so far

  1. Rose Woodward September 25, 2010 7:16 am

    Hi Jamie,

    You can get the best information about help and care options for not covered by medicare or health insurance from your senator. you may also like to consider joining the Kidney-Onc listserv. run by ACORS where many kidney patients from all over the US can give you their experience – many without health insurance – and can offer you advice . I’m afraid our charity cannot offer individuals help because of the terms of the Charity Commission which forbid individual help of the type you need. I do hope you can find the help you need, do try ACOR they are a wonderful group. You can also try the Kidney Cancer Association in US for advice they are a non profit with a lot of funding.
    I hope this help, take care ..Rose Woodward

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