• A 74 year old man died of a bleed on his brain after he was refused treatment aimed at preventing strokes
  • NHS England is assessing the treatment as part of Commissioning Through Evaluation
  • Charity claims it warned NHS England of potential deaths for more than a year

NHS England is facing calls to lift funding restrictions following the death of a 74 year old man from a brain bleed months after he was denied treatment to prevent strokes.

The Arrhythmia Alliance is calling on NHS England to allow patients at high risk of strokes to be treated while its Commissioning Through Evaluation review is going on, after a man with atrial fibrillation died after being refused a potentially life saving procedure as a result of the programme.

HSJ revealed in July that NHS England had warned of delays in evaluating data over the effectiveness of six procedures and a “knock on effect” on commissioning decisions related to the CTE project.

NHS England is considering the effectiveness of six procedures under the review after limiting funding to specialist centres and evaluating the evidence. The procedure aimed at preventing strokes in AF patients is now being assessed, meaning no more funding is available until the evaluation is concluded and a funding decision is made.

The Association of British Healthcare Industries then accused NHS England of damaging the UK’s reputation as a destination for innovative companies because of delays to the project since its launch in 2013.

Trudie Lobban, chief executive of the Arrhythmia Alliance, said: “We have warned NHS England repeatedly for over a year that this tragic situation would occur while patients are waiting indefinitely for potentially life saving treatment.

“Although we believe in the concept of Commissioning Through Evaluation, we cannot accept such high risk patients with AF being unable to receive this often life saving treatment.”

She said the alliance urged NHS England to allow centres already in the CTE process to continue to provide a left atrial appendage occlusion – the treatment that may have saved the patient’s life in this case.

“We believe it makes sense both clinically and economically for NHS England to allow this specific subpopulation of patients to receive this potentially life saving, and life improving technology whilst the data evaluation is completed,” she added.

The 74 year old man, who has not been identified, was told the treatment was his best option to treat the AF in August 2016. However, he was informed in January that the treatment – which costs £7,470 – was no longer being funded by the NHS nationally until the review had been completed.

He was placed on anticoagulation therapy but suffered a major bleed in his brain on 24 July, the day before HSJ revealed that the £25m scheme was facing delays because trusts had not submitted data for evaluation.

He died three days later after his children agreed to switch off life support.

The charity said a Freedom of Information request showed many patients suitable for the treatment were unable to receive it because funding was restricted until the CTE process was completed.

“We know of many patients living with this ticking time bomb across the UK who are at seriously high risk of suffering an arterial fibrillation-related stroke,” Ms Lobban said, whose “only treatment option” was a left atrial appendage occlusion, which is currently not being funded.

HSJ has approached NHS England for comment.