A letter was presented to Jeremy Hunt today to protest a NHS decision to stop people with blood cancer having second stem cell transplants.
Last week, Anthony Nolan joined forces with more than 30 doctors to urge the Government to intervene.
Now, an open letter has gathered an incredible 18,000 signatures in just six days.
Around 20 people a year need a transplant for blood cancer or a blood disorder that has relapsed following an initial stem cell transplant. The transplants have been deemed unaffordable by NHS England.
The letter, signed by healthcare professionals, patients and members of the public, said: ‘With this decision, NHS England is effectively handing most of these patients a death sentence.’
Emily Wellfare, 25, from Eastbourne, was one of the patients who made the trip to the Department of Health today. She had a second transplant in March after her doctors had to fight for funding.
She said: ‘I can’t believe the amount of support in such a short time. It’s incredible and shows the importance of the issue.
‘I feel proud to be here to stand up for people like myself but also quite saddened. We shouldn’t have to be here. I feel lucky to be standing here - in the eyes of this policy I shouldn’t be.
‘It is not just about the expense, it is sad to think someone would give up fighting for my life before me, my family and everyone I know.’
Attendee Simon Bostic, the world’s first unrelated donor recipient, said: ‘I think it is wonderful to get such support but I am unsurprised given the tragedy of this situation. For patients and loved ones, having the last chance of hope taken away is inconceivable.
‘I’m really pleased to be able to make it here today. This is an issue of such profound importance to me personally, to other patients, but to the general public as well, as we must be able to fight to protect life-saving treatments.
‘I sincerely hope that Jeremy Hunt will personally take an interest in this and take a good look at those affected and try to put himself in their shoes and those of their families.’
Also attending was Emma Paine, 29, who had a second transplant after an arduous funding battle with the NHS.
At the time, she said: ‘A panel of people will decide whether I get to live or die.’
Today, she said: ‘I feel disappointed we have to be here - it shouldn’t have come to this. But it’s great to be able to support Anthony Nolan today and to hopefully change some perspectives.
‘I want to show people that I wouldn’t be alive if not for a second transplant.’
Anthony Nolan Chief Executive, Henny Braund, who handed the large petition to the DoH, said: ‘The overwhelming support we’ve received for our campaign shows the strength of feeling among doctors, patients and members of the public against this devastating NHS money-saving decision.
‘Our supporters are outraged at this injustice and we will not rest until the decision is reversed. We are now calling on our supporters to write to their MPs to ask them to join our fight.’
In a letter to Jeremy Hunt, over 30 experts representing the transplant community said: ‘Without a second stem cell transplant, many of these patients will die. With another transplant, there is hope; evidence suggests there is a one in three chance that they will achieve the milestone of five year survival. There are many people alive today, leading fulfilling and active lives with their families, after a second transplant.’
Before 2013, patients in need of a second transplant received the potentially lifesaving treatment they needed. In the same circumstances today, these people would be denied the treatment that saved their life.
We're now asking members of the public to visit their website to write to their MPs, asking them to support the campaign.