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The NHS won’t pay to save my failing eyesight’

PUBLISHED: 14:53 12 March 2008 | UPDATED: 09:49 12 August 2010

A GRANDMOTHER who says she will lose her sight because the NHS refuses to pay for vital drugs to save it said she would rather die than go blind. Margaret Coates, 79, who cares for her disabled 81-year-old WWII veteran husband is devastated that Bromley

A GRANDMOTHER who says she will lose her sight because the NHS refuses to pay for vital drugs to save it said she would rather die than go blind.

Margaret Coates, 79, who cares for her disabled 81-year-old WWII veteran husband is devastated that Bromley Primary Care Trust (PCT) will not pay for the sight-saving medicine, Lucentis.

She has wet Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) in both eyes, which is the leading cause of sight loss in the UK and one that can lead to blindness in as little as three months.

The grandmother-of-six, from Hayes, said: "I'm praying the PCT will change its mind or they may as well bring in euthanasia because I wouldn't want to live. I would go mad.

"This has come upon me out of the blue. I have no control over it whatsoever. I feel completely and utterly abandoned by the NHS.

"I have paid my contributions the whole of my life and never claimed benefits. Then at the end when you need them there's nobody there. I mean do we have a national health service or not?

"This condition affects lots of people so I'm not only angry for myself. How we can be abandoned is unthinkable. It's just dreadful."

Mrs Coates said she is terrified she will no longer be able to look after her husband, who has another strain of AMD and is currently suffering from an ulcerated leg.

She said: "I could barely see his dressing to change it the other day. I feel devastated they are just leaving us to get worse. Then we will have to be separated and put in to care."

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is now backing Mrs Coates plight to save her sight.

RNIB Campaign Manager, Barbara McLaughan, said: "This is a shameful way for Bromley PCT to treat its patients. The clock is literally ticking to save Mrs Coates' sight, yet the PCT is turning its back on her. If Mrs Coates is not an exceptional case, I'd like Bromley PCT to tell me who is?"

Chief executive of the Macular Disease Society, Tom Bremridge, said: "This is a disgraceful way for Bromley PCT to treat Mrs Coates.

"Given the extra cost of supporting people who go blind, PCTs are mistaken in thinking they will save money by denying patients treatment for AMD."

A spokesman from Bromley PCT said: "Bromley PCT funds Lucentis treatment for Bromley residents with Age-related Macular Degeneration in line with current criteria agreed by the South East London Commissioning Group for the whole of south-east London.

"Conditions for approving an exceptional treatment have been agreed and are employed by all 31 PCTs in London."

Katherine.nelson@archant.co.uk

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