We request that the Welsh Assembly Government remove the “Gate Keeper Principle” for patients in Pembrokeshire and Wales who are suffering from rare, chronic, life-limiting, life-threatening, autoimmune illness, so that these patients are presumed to have access, rather than completing an application under the WHSSC.
The Welsh Health Specialist Services Committees (WHSSC) are the representatives who are authorised to refer and commit WHSSC funding for treatment at preferred specialist centres outside Wales.
This exemption to the principle should apply to SLE, SCLE and related conditions such as Sjogren’s syndrome, and myositis etc., (the exact list of related rare autoimmune illnesses to be agreed between the Welsh Assembly Government and the British Society for Rheumatology and patient advocacy groups.
I am campaigning for access to specialist lupus care for people living with lupus in Pembrokeshire, the lack of which is severely impacting on the management of their serious chronic, often life-limiting and potentially-life shortening illness, their ability to work, their relationships and their general quality of life.
There is currently a “Gate Keeper Principle” in place and the Secretary of State for Health at the Welsh Assembly Government is refusing to remove it for lupus patients in Wales.
This puts us at an immediate disadvantage with our healthcare, treatment and medication plans, as all Centres of Excellence acknowledged by LUPUS UK are in England.
As a result, patients with lupus and other rare autoimmune illnesses (these rarely come alone and patients usually have two or more related illnesses) in Wales are being denied the right to access this expertise which could really benefit them in the long term.
Unfortunately lupus is prone to relapses and remissions and results in considerable morbidity due to flare activity and accumulated damage, with an increased risk of premature death. In fact lupus sufferers have a mean age of death of 53.7 years. Preventative measures would surely be more cost effective, rather than treating the kidney disease, strokes and heart disease etc. that can occur in the long term if the disease is not adequately controlled.
These patients would undoubtedly benefit from receiving specialist care and monitoring, with a view to local rheumatology co-operating with the lupus expert to provide the best care possible and the best outcome for the patient.
Applications for funding in Pembrokeshire, for a referral to these Lupus Experts and Centres are being denied, or doctors are refusing to complete the paperwork and make the applications in the first place, under Hywel Dda University Health Board. Patients are being encouraged not to apply as the application will never be approved.
Hywel Dda University Health Board maintain that the local hospital can adequately diagnose and treat lupus, with the inference being that we do not need to access specialist care.
LUPUS UK and the members of Pembrokeshire Lupus Support Group would strongly disagree with this assessment.
The Health Board are not following the British Society for Rheumatology Guidelines for the management of SLE in Adults, so in our opinion, are not providing an adequate level of care.
This is a very unfair and unjust system for people living with lupus in Pembrokeshire and Wales as a whole.
Lupus patients under NHS England have the right to choose where they are referred to and therefore can access these centres. Why don’t Welsh patients have this right too?
We feel that we are ignored and our illness misunderstood / underestimated every single time.
Please show your support for our cause by signing our petition.
Pembrokeshire Lupus Support Group
I take this opportunity to point out that the current Lupus UK Centres of Excellence are;
University College London Hospitals (UCLH)Louise Coote Lupus Clinic - Guy's and
St Thomas' Hospitals, London
The Kellgren Centre - Manchester Royal Infirmary
Alder Hey Children's Hospital - Liverpool
The Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (RNHRD), Bath
Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham
Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge
The hospitals that have a lupus nurse are;
Aberdeen Royal Infirmary
Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (RNHRD), Bath
Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham - very soon!
Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospital
Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge
Russells Hall Hospital, Dudley
Western General Hospital, Edinburgh
Glasgow Royal Infirmary
Leicester Royal Infirmary
Llandudno Hospital (only provision in Wales)