Andy Ford's Battle with York and North Yorkshire PCT


Taken from THE PRESS 20/July/2007

The Spinal Foundation - What is It?

A research organisation, based in Congleton, Cheshire, set up in 1994 to develop new techniques to treat back pain.

What is the Technique?

It is based on “aware-state diagnosis which increases the accuracy of diagnosing the source of the pain and laser assisted "minimally invasive aware state” spinal surgery. This involves a doctor using a 7mm diameter endoscope to chip away at the area that is squashing the nerve and causing the pain.

How Does it Differ to Conventional Surgery?

Conventional Fusion surgery involves taking out the majority of the disc before jacking the vertebrae apart with bone or a metal cage.


Martin Knight is the Consultant Spine Surgeon. He practices in England and France and has been teaching his techniques to surgeons worldwide.

Success Rate?

Based on a 50 per cent reduction in pain in the legs and back and a 50 cent increase in functionality Mr Knight's techniques have an 80 percent success rate. This compares to a 63 per cent success rate for conventional surgery which is based on only a ten per cent improvement.

Complication Rate?

Only 2.4 per cent, compared with an 11 to 18 per cent complication rate for conventional surgery. The severity of complications is also less.

Status with NICE

NICE accepts that the majority of patients do well with this technology, but the surgery does not meet its requirements for direct referral because there has been no randomised controlled clinical trial.

It has ruined my life. My girlfriend has left me because she was unable to deal with the situation I'm in, and I feel desperate.

Andy Ford

From an article by Nicola Fifield in THE PRESS

His life has been torn apart by 14 years of crippling back pain but health bosses are refusing to fund the only treatment that he believes will end his "night-mare”. Andy Ford, 59, was referred for the surgery by The Spinal Foundation - a specialist research organisation, which has developed an advanced type of keyhole spinal surgery with a high success rate. But the York and North Yorkshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) told him it would not fund the £10,000 operation because it has not been approved by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).

Now Andy, who has been unable to work since 1992 because of his chronic condition, said the only way he could come up with the money was by selling his house in Haxby Road, York. He said: "The pain is unbearable. At its worst, it feels like a wagon has been driven over my legs and parked on top of them. The pressure is so strong it makes me sick."

"I haven't been able to work for 14 years and I can only leave the house a couple of times a week - just to go to the super¬market. It has ruined my life. My girlfriend has left me because she was unable to deal with the situation I'm in, and I feel desperate. This surgery is my only hope of leading a normal life again."

His problems began in 1992, when he felt a sharp pain in his leg while he was adjusting the hand-brake on his car. He said “Something happened and at first it was as if I'd been stung by a bee in my right leg. It spread to my other leg, and eventually I couldn't even walk properly." None of the consultants at York Hospital were able to diagnose the problem. So, in 1996, when I saw something on TV about the Spinal Foundation, I decided to get in touch with their consultant."

Using new "aware state" diagnosis methods, spinal consultant Martin Knight, identified the problem as two leaking prolapsed discs, and in 1998, Andy had the first of two operations he needed to correct the problem.

He said: "I paid for the first operation, but there's no way I can afford the second one. I would have to sell my house." Andy, who used to work in aircraft maintenance, has the full backing of Mr Knight, who condemned the PCT's decision as "unfair". He said: "This man is a terrific battler. He has been in an awful lot of pain for a very long time and I see no reason why the PCT shouldn't fund the second operation that he needs."

"I know the NHS is strapped for cash, but Andy is having his entire life wrecked, and I believe he should be offered the most advanced treatment available."

A PCT spokesperson said they were not able to comment due to the trust's policy on patient confidentiality.