Mum-of-two's ‘relief’ over funding for 'life-or-death' cancer treatment after High Court win

Maria Wallpott needed treatment that is automatically available to patients in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland - but only under exceptional circumstances in Wales. Credit: Irwin Mitchell

A mum-of-two has spoken of her "relief" after being approved funding for potentially life-saving cancer treatment following a successful High Court legal challenge.

Maria Wallpott, 50, from Caerphilly, has stage four appendix cancer which has spread to her ovaries.

The treatment that she needs is automatically available to patients in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland - but only under exceptional circumstances in Wales.

Maria said: "I really can’t put into words the relief I felt when I heard that the funding request had been approved.

"It not only gives me the biggest chance of surviving the cancer and living longer, but it means I can see my children grow up and have families of their own."

A colorectal surgeon recommended that Maria should undergo a specific procedure – hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) and cytoreductive surgery (CRS) – which requires flushing the abdomen with heated anti-cancer medications after removing as much of the tumour as possible.

Maria’s oncology doctor submitted a request to fund the £73,000 treatment, which is automatically available to patients in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but only under exceptional circumstances in Wales.

The request was refused twice by the Welsh Individual Patients Funding Requests (IPFR) panel on behalf of the Welsh Health Specialist Services Committee (WHSSC) and Aneurin Bevan University Health Board.

The court found that the decision not to fund Maria's treatment was "unlawful".

Following this, Maria instructed expert medical treatment dispute lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to bring a judicial review against the panel’s decision. A hearing took place last month and a judgment was handed down in which Maria and her legal team won. The IPFR was therefore required to reconsider its decision.

"Considering it had been refused twice, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen," Maria said.

"I feel like everything is now in my favour to beat this terrible disease and I can’t wait to start the treatment.

"I’m also extremely grateful to my team at Irwin Mitchell, my doctors and Plaid Cymru for fighting my corner; this wouldn’t have been possible without them."

Maria has now been told that the panel has approved the funding request and she is scheduled to start treatment on February 1.

Katy Cowans, the specialist medical treatment disputes and human rights lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Maria, said: “Maria believed that the initial decision to deny her treatment could very well be the difference between life and death.

"Therefore, following the successful legal challenge, I’m thrilled that the committee has seen sense and decided to fund the surgery for Maria, providing her with a major boost in her fight against cancer.

"It was a shame that she had no choice but to take legal action to secure this decision, at a time when she was also undergoing extensive chemotherapy

"We and Maria believe this latest decision will give her the best possible chance of a future with her children."

The Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee (WHSSC) commissions specialist services for patients in Wales.

A spokesperson for the committee previously said: "The decisions on which services are commissioned are based on a rigorous review of the evidence of clinical and cost effectiveness for interventions, and a consistent and transparent process for prioritisation.

"Individual Patient Funding Request (IPFR) panels meet regularly to consider requests to fund treatment outside of agreed commissioning policies.

"WHSSC are unable to comment on individual patient cases or the outcome of IPFR funding requests, but will reflect on the court’s judgement and take the appropriate actions."