Funding row halts specialist epilepsy surgery at Birmingham hospital

Epilepsy sufferer David Knowles said he has been left in limbo after his operation was cancelled.

Life changing operations for epilepsy have stopped in Birmingham over the past 14 months because of a row over money, a surgeon has claimed.

One patient had his brain surgery cancelled less than two hours before he was due in hospital.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital apologised, saying the procedure is not currently commissioned by NHS England.

However, NHS England claims it is working with the hospital on plans to further develop the service.

David Knowles, 32, was due to undergo a procedure in April that could cure or significantly reduce his epilepsy.

Known as lesion resection, it involves inserting electrodes into the brain to detect electrical activity and carefully removing abnormal brain tissue.

Just 45 minutes after confirmation that he was to come into hospital, however, he was told that the operation had been cancelled.

In a letter to his GP, the surgeon Ramesh Chelvarajah wrote: "Due to funding and commissioning changes that have arisen with the advent of NHS England taking over from the old PCTs, the service has effectively been suspended since February of last year."

Football match

Mr Chelvarajah also told the BBC that he has a horrendous waiting list and if and when funding is agreed, it could take up to a year to work through the backlog.

The disagreement is over the tariff - the amount the trust gets paid for the operation.

Mr Chelvarajah said: "The tariff is still a football match between the trust and NHS England."

Mr Knowles, who is having more frequent and severe attacks because his medication is becoming less effective, has, according to the surgeon, up to an 80% chance of a complete cure.

The software engineer is bitter because it is the third time that he has failed to obtain surgery.

Aged 16, he was taken to theatre with a metal cage already implanted in his head, but the procedure was inappropriate. At 21, he was rejected as not suitable for surgery at the last minute.

"To have your hopes raised and dashed is hard," he said.

"I was told that surgery was pretty routine at the QE. Then all of a sudden to find out that it had been cancelled due to funding is pretty diabolical."

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust said it had apologised to Mr Knowles for the cancellation of his operation and recognised that it had not met its usual standards of care.

It said that it was not currently commissioned by NHS England to provide this procedure as part of its epilepsy service, but is working towards being able to offer this in the future.

A spokeswoman said: "The Trust is in the process of finalising an agreement with NHS England to fund the capacity for 10 intercranial telemetry procedures per year at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham."

A spokesperson for NHS England said: "Although we cannot comment on individual cases, NHS England does routinely fund epilepsy surgery such as lesion resection and diagnostic work in line with our national specification for neurosurgery care.

"We are currently working with the hospital on their plans to further develop this service for the small number of patients each year with complex and specialised epilepsy needs

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