Patients hit back at closure of professor's 'pioneering' clinic by the Whittington
PUBLISHED: 13:37 30 October 2015 | UPDATED: 14:32 30 October 2015
The closure of what has been called a "pioneering" clinic for those suffering urinary tract infections has prompted a furious backlash against health chiefs - with patients warning the sudden shutdown will put lives at risk.
People living with chronic pain from all over the country are said to come to the clinic run by Professor James Malone-Lee at the Hornsey Central Health Centre in Crouch End.
His “unorthodox” use of high dose antibiotics in treating certain urinary tract infections and other related illnesses has been heralded by his patents as “life-saving” and “the only treatment that works”.
But the medical director of Whittington Health, the NHS Trust responsible for the clinic, has locked horns with Prof Malone-Lee, a former Whittington medical director himself, by suddenly telling his patients they could no longer receive the treatment.
Dr Richard Jennings says the decision to suspend his predecessor’s clinic last Wednesday was prompted by a “safety alert” and followed “possible risks associated with some of the antibiotic prescriptions”. It is thought a patient of Prof Malone-Lee’s suffered organ damage.
Patients say they can now only have short-term doses of antibiotics as per NHS guidelines. Some of them have described this as a “useless” treatment and say they now face a future suffering in pain.
More than 2,000 people have signed a petition praising Professor Malone-Lee’s treatments and calling for his clinic to reopen.
Irene Slatter, 72, of Somali Road, West Hampstead, has suffered an infection for four years and was a patient of Prof Malone-Lee’s.
She said: “This illness is horrible and very painful – it can leave you feeling suicidal. I’ve tried short-term antibiotic treatments and they just don’t work. It was only Prof Malone-Lee’s treatment that helped. This decision, which patients weren’t consulted on, is devastating for us all.
“At least let us make the decision ourselves.”
A seemingly endless list of patients like Ms Slatter have given their own stories on the Change.org petition, attacking Whittington Health’s decision.
Addressing Dr Jennings, one patient wrote: “You are effectively sentencing patients to a half-life not able to ever fully relax or concentrate as they are in pain, discomfort or thinking about their symptoms.
“I like many others despaired of the NHS system which made me feel worse rather than better.
“I am extremely worried that this infection if managed ineffectively WILL be the death of me and many others. If you think us exaggerating, then you obviously don’t understand how awful it can really be.”
Another added: “Prof Malone-Lee is the only consultant that I’m aware of who gives people with these conditions any hope or solutions.”
A well-known actor, also a patient of Prof Malone-Lee’s but who did not want to be named, added to the criticism of Whittington Health, telling the Ham&High it had “compromised our care” and describing the situation as “badly handled”.
A Whittington Health spokesman insisted the clinic would remain shut.
They added: “Following an alert about a safety incident, and in order to protect patient safety, Whittington Health has suspended an outpatient clinic that was being held at Hornsey Central Neighbourhood Health Centre. The Centre itself remains open as usual. The clinic provided the Lower Urinary Tract Service (LUTS).
“This change has been necessary because of concerns about possible risks to the health of patients associated with some of the antibiotic prescriptions.
“This change was made at short notice and we apologise to patients and their families for any inconvenience or distress that this has caused.
“We will be offering alternative clinic appointments to all of the patients. We are also writing to all patients to advise them of this and to give them details of a helpline that they can phone.
“We would like to reassure patients and their families that we will continue to ensure that they receive good, safe care.
“Whittington Health is commissioning an external review of the suspended Lower Urinary Tract Service and we will re-evaluate the position once the findings of that review are available.”