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National brain tumour research funding needs to increase to £35 million a year

Australian neurosurgeon faces restrictions on brain tumour operations

Following an emergency meeting of the Medical Council of New South Wales, neurosurgeon Charles Teo will face restrictions on the types of operations he can carry out.

Mr Teo’s services have been in high demand, with desperate families raising large amounts of money through crowdfunding to pay for operations that other surgeons have deemed too risky.

However, Mr Teo's practices and the fees he charges patients have caused unease among fellow surgeons although he has defended his prices, blaming “excessive” costs in the Australian private health system.

Under the new conditions, Dr Teo will be required to get written approval from another neurosurgeon approved by the Medical Council before conducting certain types of procedures on patients with brain tumours. In a statement, a Medical Council of NSW spokesperson said Dr Teo would also be required to show that he had explained the risks associated with the procedure to his patient and obtained informed financial consent.

In a statement, Dr Teo said he accepted the NSW Medical Council's rulings. He said: “I feel extremely privileged to have helped more than 11,000 patients both here and overseas over the last 35 years in their journeys with all types of brain tumours.

“At all times, my overarching priority is their health, while offering them hope and respect.

“I am often approached by patients suffering from brain cancer who have been told that there is nothing else to be done. Published manuscripts over the last 30 years show that my success rate with these so-called 'inoperable' tumours has been very successful in curing 'incurable' tumours, extending survival or improving quality of their lives.”

We asked Emeritus Professor of Neurosurgery, and Chair of our Brain Tumour Research Scientific and Medical Advisory Board (SMAB), Garth Cruickshank for his thoughts on Mr Teo’s case. He said:

“Very few UK neurosurgeons conduct brain tumour surgery privately. This is because they need the back up of an intensive care unit and there are not many of these in the private sector in the UK. Some NHS departments support private work but the conflict with NHS patient flows puts most surgeons off doing this. I note that Mr Teo is now required to have his patients’ cases reviewed by the equivalent of a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) meeting prior to surgery and this would form a basic safeguard for patients and, of course, advice from a conventional MDT might be that surgery is too risky.”

Accessing treatments overseas is a matter of huge interest to our community. It can offer hope, a new treatment pathway, a surgical intervention and opportunities to receive emerging therapeutics – options often not currently being offered by the NHS. This can come at a significant cost, which is frequently funded by patients, patients’ families and their fundraising friends. Parliamentarians will focus on the need for some brain tumour patients to seek treatment abroad as part of the forthcoming inquiry by the APPGBT – ‘Pathway to a Cure – breaking down the barriers’.

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