Those in the mesothelioma community will be aware that immunotherapy treatment offers hope to some patients in prolonging life expectancy. Such treatment is not however available on the NHS and only offered privately.
The fees are very high – they can average £10,000 every three weeks – and the treatment can potentially continue for years.
Availability of such treatment has represented a challenge for lawyers since 2018. Here at Fieldfisher we were always aware that the Courts would rule that Defendants in compensation claims should pay for private treatment if it was offered.
Last year, in 2018, we convened a conference with attendees from the legal and medical professions to chart a way forward. Since then we have been at the forefront of recovering charges for patients. Our partner, Andrew Morgan, was one of the first solicitors to recover not only the cost of past treatment for a patient, Pamela Stubberfield, but also secured an agreement from the insurer in that case to pay directly for future treatment for as long as it was needed. That provided us with a legal template to make similar claims for other patients.
We were also the first Claimant lawyers to have such an agreement contested in court. In Hague v. British Telecommunications Peter Williams obtained a ruling from the Court that British Telecom had to continue to pay for immunotherapy treatment for Mr Hague despite the fact that the changed his treatment from one type of drug – Pembrolizumab – to another – Nivolumab. That Judgment from the Court – the first of its kind in immunotherapy treatments – has enabled mesothelioma patients to continue to recover for private treatment in successful claims.
Our task now in all cases is to issue proceedings in court early and push the Courts for speedy settlements along with agreements to pay future private medical fees for all our mesothelioma clients. We have been successful in doing so. We have established a standard agreement which can be used for all cases and Defendants have begun to agree such agreements and pay. At present, we have secured agreements to pay for future immunotherapy treatment for at least 15 of our clients and continue to do so on a daily basis.
The past 18 months have shown us that if we deal with cases quickly, if we are tenacious and if we are insistent that our clients are entitled to all future medical fees we can obtain agreements to pay for them. This provides our clients access to new, novel and expensive treatment and offers some hope for better outcomes from this dreadful disease.
Image Credit: National Cancer Institute