Multi-disciplinary teams (MDT) are the means by which the NHS seeks to eliminate mavericks and make sure that patients receive the best treatment. The idea is that every new patient is discussed by a group of specialists and decisions are taken by several heads being put together.
Recently a patient with CLL appeared in a district hospital with a lymphocyte count of over a million. Prognostic markers were done and the patient was found to have a p53 deletion. The MDT was consulted and recommended that possible courses of treatment were alemtuzumab or leucapheresis. The local team instead decided to use CHOP. The following week the patient had a lymphocyte count of 1.2 million. The Hb was only 4g/dl. Again different members of the MDT recommended different courses of action. One consultant, who has an international reputation in the treatment of this disease and who chairs the committee that draws up treatment guidelines, again recommends alemtuzumab. He is aware that the patient has large lymph nodes, but the urgent element for treatment is the severe bone marrow suppression and surely this needs to be remedied before worrying about the lymph nodes. Instead, the local team decide on leucapheresis despite the low Hb and the patient dies while connected up to the cell separator.
Another patient, a young bodybuilder, appears with enlarged lymph nodes from his CLL. He too has a p53 deletion. The correct treatment is clearly alemtuzumab and high dose steroids. Because there is no specific budget for this, the case has to be put to the primary care trust (PCT). This group of public health doctors, GPs and pharmacists of course knows nothing about CLL. So they read the literature. "I have been reading about this subject for two hours" says one, "I am now an expert in the condition." "Campath is contraindicated where there are bulky nodes," says another. "Where are the guidelines recommending this?" asks another. My friend produces a recent paper and admits that the guidelines do not yet recommend this, but the ones in preparation will. He knows because he has the job of writing them. Of course a prophet is not without honor save in his own country. Eventually they are part persuaded and will pay for two courses of the drug.
Both examples of inappropriate bureaucracy hindering treatment.
Another example. The European Clinical Trials directive decrees that the same standard of oversight should be applied to academic trials as to pharmaceutical trials. So the MHRA dispatches inspectors to hospitals to examine the notes to ensure that the protocol has been properly followed. One famous hospital is taken to task because for one patient there is no record in her notes that she has been counselled about taking effective contraception during her chemotherapy. The patient is 73 years old.
A man from Zimbabwe has a blood test which shows a white count of 20,000 and a platelet count of 7. The cells are typical acute promyelocytic leukemia (APML) cells. This disease is curable if treated but he is in imminent danger of bleeding to death if he is not treated. This is explained to him, but he declines admission to hospital. The doctor realizes that he is probably an illegal and reassures him that he is not going to snitch to the authorities. He still refused to come into hospital. A week later his 'brother' brings him into the A&E department unconscious and then leaves him. He dies a few hours later; he has had a cerebral hemorrhage. the address his 'brother' has left is a false one.
I am so glad I no longer work for the NHS