If your treatment is being restricted or stopped altogether, hopefully there will be some help options for you here.
There are letters being sent out to patients, some of whom have received B12 treatment for donkey’s years, which announce that they will no longer receive their vital injections.
The incidence of this behaviour is increasing …..This appears to be due to a cost saving exercise and largely happens without any prior consultation with individual patients to discuss their needs. (The cost of B12 is pennies but the time for nurses to give the injection appears to be the ‘saving’ here.)
Some practices are enclosing diet sheets for patients to learn how to make sure they are eating foods containing B12. Quite bizarre when these patients wouldn’t be deficient in the first place if they could absorb B12 from food.
The same old line about ‘too much B12 being harmful’ (which is complete rubbish) is often used in these letters and if the patient is unaware of the truth about B12 they might quietly comply with the harmful removal of their vital treatment.
Some letters state that the reason B12 injections are being stopped is “many patients are being over treated with this vitamin”. If this is the case in your letter, please ask them to provide you with this evidence.
Our clinicians need reminding that Pernicious anaemia (PA) is the very tip of a huge iceberg.
Some GP’s may incorrectly believe that only patients with a definite diagnosis of PA, those with a positive intrinsic factor antibody test, require treatment for life so seem to be using this as their treatment exclusion criteria.
The trouble is that the IFA test is not entirely reliable, it has a very low sensitivity and misses many that do have PA.
Obviously this ignores all those who require life long treatment due to other causes of B12 deficiency (of which there are many), thereby potentially causing great harm to the vast majority of their B12 deficient patients.
These letters appear to be indiscriminate cost saving initiatives and are being sent out as individual practice directives and not that of the CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group).
You may know that each GP Practice is governed by a CCG and each CCG has a Medicines Optimisation Department – the role of this department is to “make sure that the right patients get the right choice of medicine at the right time”.
If you have received a letter stopping your vital lifelong treatment then why not find your CCG and talk to the Medicines Optimisation department about what is happening?
There are 211 CCG’s, find yours here.
You may find the NHS Constitution of great help when discussing your lack of treatment.
This valuable document is for everyone and should be used in situations when your GP or your surgery is not making any sense regarding your treatment. I have added some parts of the text below but want to highlight the following sentence for you to bear in mind;
“The Secretary of State for Health, all NHS bodies, private and voluntary sector providers supplying NHS services, and local authorities in the exercise of their public health functions are required by law to take account of this Constitution in their decisions and actions.”
The NHS Constitution sets out your rights as a patient, and explains the commitments the NHS has made to providing you with a high quality service. Organisations providing NHS care must take account of the NHS Constitution when treating you, so you may find it helpful to refer to it if you are thinking about making a complaint.
This Constitution establishes the principles and values of the NHS in England. It sets out rights to which patients, public and staff are entitled, and pledges which the NHS is committed to achieve, together with responsibilities, which the public, patients and staff owe to one another to ensure that the NHS operates fairly and effectively. The Secretary of State for Health, all NHS bodies, private and voluntary sector providers supplying NHS services, and local authorities in the exercise of their public health functions are required by law to take account of this Constitution in their decisions and actions. References in this document to the NHS and NHS services include local authority public health services, but references to NHS bodies do not include local authorities. Where there are differences of detail these are explained in the Handbook to the Constitution.
1. The NHS provides a comprehensive service, available to all irrespective of gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion, belief, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity or marital or civil partnership status. The service is designed to improve, prevent, diagnose and treat both physical and mental health problems with equal regard. It has a duty to each and every individual that it serves and must respect their human rights.
At the same time, it has a wider social duty to promote equality through the services it provides and to pay particular attention to groups or sections of society where improvements in health and life expectancy are not keeping pace with the rest of the population.
4. The patient will be at the heart of everything the NHS does. It should support individuals to promote and manage their own health. NHS services must reflect, and should be coordinated around and tailored to, the needs and preferences of patients, their families and their carers. As part of this, the NHS will ensure that in line with the Armed Forces Covenant, those in the armed forces, reservists, their families and veterans are not disadvantaged
Improving lives. We strive to improve health and wellbeing and people’s experiences of the NHS. We cherish excellence and professionalism wherever we find it – in the everyday things that make people’s lives better as much as in clinical practice, service improvements and innovation. We recognise that all have a part to play in making ourselves, patients and our communities healthier.
Everyone counts. We maximise our resources for the benefit of the whole community, and make sure nobody is excluded, discriminated against or left behind. We accept that some people need more help, that difficult decisions have to be taken – and that when we waste resources we waste opportunities for others.
You have the right to receive care and treatment that is appropriate to you, meets your needs and reflects your preferences.
- Quality of care and environment:
You have the right to be treated with a professional standard of care, by appropriately qualified and experienced staff, in a properly approved or registered organisation that meets required levels of safety and quality.
Patients with B12 deficiency are regularly discriminated against.
You can see that this powerful and useful document can be employed to protect both you and your treatment.
If your particular GP is unhelpful, could there be another in the practice who you could see instead?
It is important to understand that many of our clinicians receive NO TRAINING whatsoever in B12 deficiency. Some receive a little, but what they may be taught is not necessarily up to date – or their training focused solely on PA (pernicious anaemia) – and the frankly ridiculous notion that anyone without a definite diagnosis of this or the presence of anaemia does not require treatment.
It is not the fault of the trainee doctor or nurse that this vital education is missing – but countless patients have provided a valuable opportunity for CPD by providing information for those in qualified to be in charge of their care. Many times this is ignored.
When doctor’s don’t know best….
I know how difficult it is for patients to challenge their doctor regarding treatment, but if you, or someone you love is being desperately under treated for this vitamin deficiency then it is essential that you, or someone close to you, takes the bull by the horns and speaks up as firmly as possible.
I hope the NHS Constitution will help you to do this.
1. You have to ignore the idea that you are upsetting the doctor, or that you are insulting them by questioning poor decisions about your health and wellbeing.
2. You have to believe doctors are no different from you, they have just learnt different things, read different books and passed different exams and that is all.
3. You have all the expertise on you, how you feel and how your deficiency effects you. You have to not be shy about sharing this in the face of such ignorance.
Ask yourself how you would challenge a joiner who mistakenly removes joists that make your roof safe?
Or a plumber who’s poor workmanship means that carbon monoxide is leaking into your bedroom?
You have to rid yourselves of the idea that the ‘doctor knows best’ when you know that their actions are doing harm.
You are not a lesser being than your doctor. You absolutely matter.
If you need help with complaining for FREE you can contact your local council or local Healthwatch team to find out about independent NHS complaints advocacy services in your area. Complaints Advocates may help you to write a letter, attend a meeting with you or explain the options available to you.
If you have already complained to the GP, the Practice Manager, the CCG, NHS England, and are still unhappy then;
You can contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) which makes final decisions on unresolved complaints about the NHS in England. It is an independent service which is FREE for everyone to use.
To take your complaint to the Ombudsman, visit the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman website or call 0345 015 4033.
You can of course complain to you MP and ask for help, some will oblige, others will direct you to NICE or NHS England.
Why not print this blog post out and help your GP or advocate to understand the situation better?