“We must find a way to accelerate access to Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy within the NHS” says West Cornwall MP, Derek Thomas

Last week, BBC Spotlight featured the case of Aiden, a young Cornish lad who has cerebral palsy. His family are seeking to raise £65,000 to pay for an operation in the USA which could potentially change Aiden’s life and allow him to walk and play with his friends. The truth is that this operation has been available within the NHS until fairly recently as part of NHS England’s Commissioning Through Evaluation Programme. In Britain, on a regular basis, new innovative treatments and medical advances are developed and traditionally these take a very long time to become a routine form of treatment within the NHS. There is good reason for this as it is important that medical treatments are proven to be safe and effective. However, the process is too slow. In an effort to speed up the process for treatments that looked promising (and could dramatically change the life or outcome for a patient) the NHS introduced this Commissioning Through Evaluation Programme (CTE). Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR), the operation Aiden needs, was included. Until recently 120 children each year have had this operation in England (search CTE dorsal rhizotomy for more details). Sadly, this programme has now concluded and although SDR is being considered for inclusion into the NHS, and despite the fact that the evidence development phase of CTE was completed late last year, NHS England say that no formal commissioning policies will be in place before 2019. Cases like Aiden’s are precisely why I spoke in Parliament last Christmas urging the Health Minister to intervene and ask NHS England to give patients accelerated access to these innovations. This is a very important issue. For selective dorsal rhizotomy, there is a narrow window in a child’s development when they can receive the treatment and by having to wait until 2019, Aidan and others could well miss out on the opportunity to have the operation through the NHS. A successful operation for a child with cerebral palsy leads to improved mobility for life and far fewer hospital and GP appointments. Somehow, we must find a way to accelerate access to these treatments within the NHS.