'Give me a gastric band - it's my Human Right!' Former policeman goes to court after NHS

Staff - dailymail.co.uk - 07/11/2011
Obesity Surgeries

A former police officer is taking his legal battle over a health trust's refusal to fund obesity surgery to the Court of Appeal.

Thomas Condliff, who weighs 22 stone, says he needs the stomach operation to save his life.

In what is believed to be the first case of its kind, he is appealing today against a High Court judge's refusal of his application.

The 62-year-old wants to overturn North Staffordshire PCT's decision not to fund a gastric bypass operation.

He is being represented by solicitor Oliver Wright using legal aid which is funded by the taxpayer.

Mr Condliff and his lawyers argue the 'irrational' decision violated his rights under the Human Rights Act and also breached the trust's own funding policy.

The grandfather from Talke, Staffordshire, became obese because of the drugs he has taken to treat long-term diabetes.

He says he would rather avoid the "very unpleasant" surgery, involving removing part of his intestine and stomach, but without it his life is in danger.

He suffers from 13 illnesses, takes 28 different drugs and uses breathing masks and inhalers.

He said his weight spiraled out of control in recent years as a result of medication.

Specialists have told him a gastric bypass operation would not only help him shed pounds but could also control his diabetes, leading to other ailments such as renal complications to fade away.

The High Court was told that, at 6ft 2ins, he weighed 22 stone and had a BMI (body mass index) of 43 - not high enough to qualify for surgery where he lives, although it would in the area of a neighbouring trust.

Judge Waksman said Mr Condliff had tried non-surgical interventions in vain including dietary, lifestyle changes and drugs.

The judge said everyone agreed gastric bypass surgery was 'clinically appropriate' for him.

But North Staffordshire PCT provided routine surgery only for those with a BMI of more than 50.

Supported by his GP and specialists treating him, Mr Condliff applied for funding in February last year on the grounds that his case was 'exceptional'.

The request was rejected. A second request was made, accompanied by evidence that Mr Condliff's physical and mental condition was deteriorating and he now had to use a wheelchair.

He was housebound, could no longer attend church and he was becoming depressed and withdrawn.

In the High Court last April, Judge Waksman said he had 'considerable sympathy' for Mr Condiff.

The judge said Mr Condliff's GP pointed out that if he were in the Stoke PCT area, he would have qualified for surgery as he had a BMI of more than 35, Stoke's lower threshold for surgery.

But the second request for treatment was also rejected and Mr Condliff was told that 'non-clinical social factors' could not be taken into account.

The judge said it was argued on Mr Condliff's behalf that the PCT decision breached his right to respect for his private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Dismissing his claim, the judge ruled his Article 8 rights had not been violated, nor were his rights to a fair hearing under Article 6 (1).

The judge said it was still open to Mr Condliff to make a further funding request 'if thought appropriate'.

Today, Mr Condliff will ask Lord Justice Maurice Kay, who is vice president of the Appeal Court's civil division, Lady Justice Hallett and Lord Justice Toulson to overturn the High Court ruling.

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