The pundits and editorial pronouncements have not yet started, but start they will: a seriously unwell five year old boy taken from Southampton General Hospital by his parents and taken with the rest of the family to southern Spain has been found after a frantic Police search. Ashya King has a serious brain tumour. His parents have become convinced that the NHS is not giving him the best treatment.
That parents become concerned and focused on a sick child is not just understandable, it is an entirely natural reaction to the condition. So the sentiments expressed by Brett King, Ashya’s father, in a video released overnight, will strike a chord with many who have been in a similar situation. Their agenda is simply to give their child a chance. The press’ agenda is rather different.
That is evident from the Mail’s chosen headline: “‘NHS doctors would not give Ashya the treatment we wanted’: Father who fled with brain tumour boy, 5, to Spain posts heartfelt video explaining move hours before parents are arrested near Marbella”. Yes, the NHS is to blame for what happened. And the NHS could not provide the treatment. Except that the NHS can provide it.
What both the Mail, and the Telegraph, are not telling their readers is that, since 2008, around 370 patients have been approved for Proton Beam therapy paid for by the NHS. And Proton Beam therapy is what Brett King is convinced his son needs. He is so convinced that he has asserted that he will pay for the treatment himself (the cost per patient for treatment alone is around £90,000).
However, and in this case we encounter a significantly sized however, as Brett King has also said in his YouTube video, the team treating Ashya have said that, in his case, Proton Beam therapy “would have no benefit whatsoever”. But Mr King wants to find a cure, so as soon as he is given this information, he Googles the details in an effort to disprove it. It’s entirely understandable.
His recollection was that “I went straight back to my room and looked it up and the American sites and French sites and Switzerland sites where they have proton beam said the opposite, it would be very beneficial for him. Then I spoke to them again, ... saying OK - I will sell my property in order to pay for the proton beam”. The press is already suggesting that this is down to inability on the part of the NHS.
But it is not. As to whether Proton Beam therapy is the answer in this case, Cancer Research UK notes “The data on adults from the UK treated abroad seem to show that they are doing well after proton therapy, but the patients who get the treatment have been selected for it specifically because their doctors think they have a good chance of doing well from it”. In other words, it is not conclusive.
The press won’t care about that. Ashya King is the latest NHS bashing excuse.