HOSPITAL chiefs in Southampton say they regret the “communication breakdown” with the parents of Ashya King.
The five-year-old, who suffers from a brain tumour, went missing from Southampton General Hospital last Thursday when his parents Brett and Neghmeh took him from his ward and left for Europe to try and secure a new treatment for him.
It prompted an international police search for the family, who were discovered in Spain with Ashya’s parents subsequently arrested.
Brett and Naghmeh King
Over the weekend Mr King said the hospital refused to consider the proton beam treatment and described the UK medical system as “cruel.”
But Dr Michael Marsh, medical director at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, has defended its doctors and said staff’s first concern was for Ashya’s health.
He said: “The chances of surviving the condition Ashya has are about 70-80 per cent after five years so we believe that he has a good chance of a successful outcome provided he gets access to the most appropriate treatment.
“We have discussed proton beam radiotherapy with Ashya’s family and there are some tumours that respond well to this type of treatment, but there are some cases where there isn’t the evidence that this is a beneficial treatment. Where the evidence supports this treatment we have made a referral and patients have been treated abroad.”
Dr Marsh added: “As events have unfolded we recognise that this must be a very distressing situation for the family. In situations where children who might be very young are suffering from life-threatening illnesses it is vital that a relationship is maintained between the family and medical staff so that treatment options can be openly discussed and agreed.
“We very much regret that the communication and relationship with the King family had broken down in this way and that for whatever reason they have lost confidence in us. Our first concern is for Ashya’s welfare and we are working with the police and the team in Spain to help him get the best care possible.”
Mr and Mrs King have been detained by a Spanish court while a judge decides whether to bring any case against them.
Police launched the search on grounds Ashya’s life could be at risk, particularly as he requires a feeding tube which police feared would run out of battery, although the family disputed there was any problem with the tube.
Dr Marsh added: “We were really concerned about Ashya’s welfare when he went missing from our hospital last Friday and for a period of time we had no idea where he was or what his parents’ intentions were.
“It is possible for parents to care for a child who is being fed through a nasogastric tube. However there are a number of risks that need to be managed and it is vitally important that this is properly supervised with close contact between the family and the medical and nursing team.
“The search for Ashya that was led by Hampshire Police has thankfully been successful. We are grateful for their efforts which have meant Ashya is under the care of a clinical team in Spain.”