The Ashya King ‘miracle’ hits the Coalition with a £250m NHS proton therapy lie
When Brett and Naghmeh King told the story of their son Ashya King’s treatment to the Sun, the scoop was front-page news. Readers wanted to know what happened next to the desperatly ill child – Ashya is age 5 – who went on the run from the NHS in search of alternative proton beam therapy treatment.
The front page declares that the Kings were “hunted like criminals”. They were. Hampshire Police obtained a European arrest warrant for the parents on the issue of ‘neglect’. The papers told readers the boy had “hours to live“. The Mirror said it was “24 hours”. The Sun said it was “weeks“.
The message was that the parents were placing their child in mortal danger.
One journalist billed them as weirdos who belonged to “a millennial religious cult“.
The Daily Mirror reported:
Missing Ashya King has been spotted with his parents at a Spanish holiday resort, an expat said, as police battled to find the terminally ill boy.
The good cops were “battling” to find the boy for the oddball parents who had let their children play in a swimming pool.
The Mirror told its readers to nark on the Kings:
Anyone with information about Ashya’s whereabouts should contact Hampshire Constabulary on 101, quoting Operation Aquilion.
Then when Ashya was alone in a Spanish hospital bed and his parents were trapped in a police station under arrest, the media switched sides. Now the Kings were the good guys. They were touched by God’s love. After all, the Sun calls Ashya’s improving health a “miracle”.
Now Brett is the “devoted father” who says the family “saved” his son’s life. The proton therapy Ashya received in Prague – a treatment not available on the NHS – did the job. Ashya is now “cancer free”.
It is a great story. And it looks like the ending is one of hope.
But what does the Daily Mirror have to say? We hear that the family are at their home near Marbella in southern Spain, “scared” to return to the UK in case their child is removed from them by social workers.
Proton Beam Machines Are A Waste Of Money
Daily Mirror reporter Andy Lines says the NHS has paid £250m for two machines. He says this is a “scandalous waste” of money.
The machine used in the Peague clinic cost £35m, he says. Sources and experts say these new NHS machines are “white elephants“. They will be “obslete” by the time they become operational. It is a “scandal”. And “…many cancer victims may be denied treatment” because of the machines’ cost. It is “the type of economic madness we’ve come to expect from the Coalition“.
Lines finds no room for a single voice to speak in favour of the machines.
He also in his “exclusive” finds no ned to mention the Daily Express report of 2013:
NHS ‘covers up’ £250m spend on ‘white elephant‘ cancer machines
It turns out that having monstered the Kings, the Mirror wants us to use Ashya’s story as a party political issue.
But is it true?
A look at the UCLH website, tells us that the machines were earmarked for order in 2012.
The joint proposal with The Christie Hospital in Manchester, will offer the first PBT service in the UK, allowing unparalleled access for patients and their families from all over the UK. Around 1,500 patients will be treated with Proton Beam Therapy, every year.
Sir Robert Naylor, UCLH chief executive, said “This partnership has the potential to make a significant difference to the lives of hundreds of patients every year, particularly children and teenagers. It provides an opportunity for the NHS to become a world-leader in paediatric radiotherapy, and gain an international profile in many complex adult cancers.”
Sounds like good news. In 2015, UCLH added:
The PBT centres, which are being developed at UCLH and The Christie in Manchester, are being funded by a £250 million government investment. Sir Robert Naylor, chief executive of UCLH, said: “I am absolutely delighted with today’s announcement of the preferred providers for the UCLH proton beam therapy centre. We are now one step closer to being able to provide UK-based care to the children and teenagers who need this highly specialised treatment. At the moment, people who require proton beam therapy have to travel abroad.”…
The fully equipped centres cost £250m. We called UCHL. They confirmed that the entire facility at both centres costs £250m: materials, contruction and equipment. The Department of Health returned our call and said that the cost of the machines cannot be given at this time but stated that the entire projects – including those 2 machines – costs £250m.
The Daily Mirror’s “exclusive” is wrong.
The UCLH PBT centre will be part of a facility based on Grafton Way and Huntley Street. Made up of the PBT centre below ground and five floors above ground, this state-of-the-art facility will offer even more than protons. The plan is to use the floors above ground to develop Europe’s largest haematological inpatient medical facility and a short stay surgical unit.
It’s big job. It costs a lot of money. But these wonderful machines do not cost £125m each.
The only ‘scandal’ is in the Mirror’s reporting on the living horror of cancer and using Ashya King to score political points.