Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Ashya King's care 'jeopardised' by NHS decision, experts say

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Media caption"Last week it emerged that Ashya has had no chemotherapy... his father said it wasn't needed", reports David Fenton

Child cancer experts have accused the NHS of "jeopardising" the recovery of five-year-old Ashya King by paying for his proton beam therapy abroad.

Leading doctors wrote to the NHS saying the decision could "result in the tragedy of children not being cured".

Ashya was treated for six weeks at a proton beam centre in the Czech Republic instead of having radiotherapy in Southampton following his surgery.

NHS England said the decision was "in the best interest of the patient".

Ashya is now in hospital in Spain but the experts said it was vital children with such tumours received radiotherapy within four to six weeks of their surgery.

The letter was sent the day before the NHS announced it would fund proton radiotherapy for Ashya in Prague - against the advice of its own specialists.


Ashya King timeline

  • Ashya had surgery for a medulloblastoma brain tumour at Southampton General Hospital
  • His parents, Brett and Naghemeh, removed him from the hospital on 28 August and sparked a manhunt when they travelled to Spain
  • They were arrested but later released and Ashya was flown to Prague, Czech Republic, for proton beam treatment
  • He had six weeks of proton beam therapy - at an estimated cost of £80,000
  • Ashya is recovering at a hospital in Spain

The authors, who the BBC is not naming, are specialists in child cancer care.

They said: "We have profound reservations regarding the ongoing clinical management of this child and feel that actual harm may have been done by jeopardising the chance of a cure."

One of the experts told the BBC that children with Ashya's type of tumour, medulloblastoma, were not normally sent abroad for proton therapy because this could delay the conventional radiotherapy treatment.

It was vital, the experts said, that children with the condition were given radiotherapy within four to six weeks of surgery.

They also said the decision would undermine confidence in the system and cause "chaos" in the management of children's cancers in the UK and a "free for all" among other parents.

'Terrible pressure'

The letter, sent to NHS chief executive Simon Stevens and other NHS heads, said: "It is not unreasonable to suggest this may result in the tragedy of children not being cured when they should have been."

A statement from NHS England said: "Given that Ashya had travelled to Prague it was clearly best that he continue to be treated uninterrupted so the NHS agreed to fund this care, as requested by his parents, in accordance with relevant European cross-border arrangements."

Ashya's grandmother Patricia said she "strongly disagreed" with the clinicians and hoped the letter would not affect payment for the treatment.

She added: "The family are all in Spain and they're likely to stay there until they get a guarantee that Ashya won't get dragged back into that Southampton hospital.

"We have all been under terrible pressure."

Ashya's father Brett King said: "Every hospital knows that proton [beam therapy] is the future. It seems like they are commenting on something they do not understand.

"Are they afraid that perhaps people might ask for something different [which] the NHS does not have at the moment?"

david.fenton@bbc.co.uk

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