PATIENTS are facing delays for life-transforming transplant operations in Leeds due to a row over funding for the cutting-edge surgery.
A year ago today, Yorkshireman Mark Cahill became the first in the UK to receive a hand transplant performed by a pioneering team at Leeds General Infirmary.
But no further operations have since been carried out despite two patients being assessed as suitable for the procedure and it might be 2015 at the earliest before they can undergo surgery.
The delays follow the Government’s controversial reconfiguration of the NHS in April.
Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) - given charge of the bulk of NHS spending including hand transplant surgery - are refusing to finance the operations, claiming it is the responsibility of NHS England which pays for specialised care.
Internationally-renowned specialist Prof Simon Kay, who carried out the transplant, said both patients could be operated on “immediately” if funding was available.
“We are saying this is clearly the responsibility of the CCGs,” said Prof Kay.
“If they want to say no to it, they have to give a good clinical reason and there isn’t one. Surgery would be life transforming for both patients.
“We could go ahead now - we are up and ready to go.
“NHS England have been very constructive.
“The people who haven’t got up to speed are the CCGs in this respect. We certainly hope it can be resolved.
“They really do need to understand the value for their patients and move quickly.”
Instead a Scottish patient was likely to be the next to undergo a transplant as funding north of the border, which has had no re-organisation, is available.
He added: “It will mean a Scottish patient will have treatment in England when an English patient can’t at the moment.
“It really does need to be sorted out.”
NHS England said: “The specialised services that are the responsibility of NHS England are set out in regulations and are determined by Ministers.
“Other hospital services are the responsibility of CCGs, including, at present, hand transplant.
“Ministers are looking at whether, during the next phase of deciding which services will be specialised, this service should become a prescribed service.
“In the meantime it remains the responsibility of CCGs to decide whether this surgery should be funded or not.”