Socialist Worker

‘I’m going blind because NHS won’t fund my treatment’

Issue No. 2048

Ron Acock (Pic: John Shemeld)

Ron Acock (Pic: John Shemeld)

An 86 year old from Derby is going blind – because his health authority won’t make his treatment available on the NHS.

Ron Acock suffers from macular degeneration, a common eye disease among the elderly that makes it hard or impossible to read, see fine details or recognise faces.

He received initial treatment for his condition earlier this year, but it has since worsened. Now he has been told he will have to go private to get access to more advanced medication.

“My consultant told me that there was a better treatment, but it wasn’t available on the NHS. I’d have to pay over £1,000 to get it,” Ron told Socialist Worker.

“I said I didn’t want to hear about it – I’m 86 and I remember what it was like when people had to pay for treatment, way back before the Second World War.”

Ron has already lost almost all sight in his left eye, and the disease now is spreading to his right eye. He is already finding it very difficult to read and write, and has had to give up his hobby of making clocks.

Macular degeneration can easily be treated if it is caught early, but the disease can spread fast and time is pressing for Ron.

He has written to Derbyshire County primary care trust demanding to know why the government can find the money for the Iraq war, but cannot afford decent healthcare for former servicemen like himself.

“I’m opposed to any privatisation in the NHS,” said Ron. “Before long, there’ll be this, that and the other that won’t be available free on the NHS – you’ll have to pay for it all.”

Ron’s situation is by no means uncommon, according to the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB), which has launched a campaign to make macular degeneration drugs available on the NHS.

“Some 80 percent of primary care trusts are failing to provide the treatment on the NHS,” says RNIB spokesperson Bill Alker. “There’s no dispute about the drugs being effective – they save sight in the majority of cases.

“People who have paid in to the NHS for donkey’s years are being left to go blind. There should be no reason why people in this day and age are losing their sight when vital sight saving drugs are easily available.”

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Tue 24 Apr 2007, 19:09 BST
Issue No. 2048
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