Josephine Cook's Battle for a Referral


I may be forced to move home because the PCT won’t help me

Josephine Cook

By Haydn Lewis

This woman says she is being forced from her home because she is unable to get treatment on the NHS in York.

Josephine Cook, 37, has a chronic back condition which means she's in constant pain after a car crash eight years ago left her with severe whiplash injuries.

At the time of the accident, Josephine was working as a fitness instructor. This had been her profession for five years and she had to give it up because doctors advised exercise would further aggravate her injuries.

Josephine, who now has a clerical job at the Spurriergate Centre, in York, said it meant "giving up on her dreams". But then she discovered a radical form of keyhole surgery carried out by the Spinal Foundation, in Cheshire, which she claims could end her pain and restore her to full fitness.

But North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust (PCT) will not fund the operation because it has not been approved by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).

Josephine said she has now been left with no option but to quit her home in Heworth, York, and move to another area, like Leeds or Calderdale, which has funded similar operations.

She said: "I have had to give up the job of my dreams and now I could be forced to move home because the PCT won't help me. It's really not fair."

"I'm in excruciating pain and their recommendation is to take a cocktail of painkillers every day for the rest of my life, which could result in other illnesses and possible drug dependency."

Josephine said the pain prevents her from doing every day activities which most people take for granted, including shopping and doing the hoovering.

The operation Josephine requires is called an endoscopic laser foraminoplasty and involves a doctor putting a telescope into the back and chipping away at the area that is squashing the nerve and causing the pain.
It is a procedure used with patients who have long- standing back and leg pain that can be caused by pressure from trapped discs.

Heworth Labour ward councillor Paul Blanchard has written to the PCT demanding it rethinks its decision and calling for a meeting with PCT bosses.

Coun Blanchard said: "I'm outraged that Josephine might have to move out of York to get this treatment which other PCTs give funding for. There's no way this should be happening. It's just a smoke screen on the part of the PCT and they need to rethink their decision."

Dr David Geddes, the PCT's medical director, said: "The reason why the PCT doesn't fund this procedure is that NICE reviewed it and looked at the results of tests and consulted experts, and concluded that there is not enough evidence to say if it works or is necessarily safe."

"When the PCT has got to look at the most effective use of resources, we have to look at whether they are safe and effective, and there is no likelihood of this operation being given funding in the foreseeable future."

Endoscopic Laser Foraminoplasty

This procedure is mainly used to treat back pain caused by a prolapsed intervertebral disc.
Approximately two to five per cent of people suffer acute back pain per year, while 0.5 per cent of these have pain and neurologic conditions requiring surgery.

This endoscope-assisted laser technique is used to widen the lumbar exit route foramina in the spine. A laser is inserted to ablate portions of the intervertebral disc which have protruded.