Chris Ansell, 35, from Halifax, is under the care of St James’ Hospital in Leeds. He was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a chronic liver disease, three years ago and was told he needs a transplant to survive.
But when further tests revealed he had bile duct cancer, Mr Ansell, who works for Nestle, found out he was no longer eligible for a transplant, even though doctors told him it’s possible his cancer could be removed and he could have a new liver in one operation.
NHS bosses said he now sits outside the selection criteria for transplant in England, but father-of-one Mr Ansell’s doctors have told him he could explore funding the operation abroad, potentially in Ireland or Switzerland.
Mr Ansell said: “There’s not been a lot of clarity and I’ve been left in limbo for such a long time.
“Doctors made it clear when I was told about having a transplant that if they found a cancer, I’d be ineligible.”
He was told there is a chance that if he undergoes successful treatment for the cancer, he could have a transplant but that he would have to wait until towards the end of the year.
The NHS has strict criteria on who is eligible for transplant to ensure organs are best used to “save and improve as many lives as possible.”
Mr Ansell’s wife Joanne, 35, said: “If they operated and gave him the transplant, they’d remove the bile duct anyway, and the solution would be solved.
“What I can’t get my head around is the UK has rejected his case when he’s young and the liver condition is not anything he’s done. He’s not abused drugs or alcohol and the cancer is contained within the transplant area anyway.
“They’ve caught it extremely early and it’s small.”
Doctors estimate it would cost £150,000 for Mr Ansell to have the operation privately in Ireland, not including his travel, accommodation and aftercare. But his chances are complicated by the fact that as a UK citizen, he is not eligible for an Irish organ, meaning potentially a special deal would have to be struck in his case.
The crowdfunder on GoFundMe has already raised £100,000 of the total needed with many donations coming from Mr Ansell’s colleagues at Nestle.
Mr Dhakshinamoorthy Vijayanand, consultant surgeon and clinical lead for hepatobiliary and transplant surgery at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We understand the difficult times that Mr Ansell and his family are going through with the recent diagnosis.
“We are doing our best to support Mr Ansell in seeking appropriate treatment options for bile duct cancer in the background of chronic liver disease. Unfortunately, we can’t currently offer a liver transplant as Mr Ansell’s condition is outside the selection criteria followed in the UK.
A spokesperson for NHS Bood and Transplant said: “Our hearts go out to Chris and his family.
"There is a tragic shortage of organ donors, which means we need a system to ensure precious donated organs are best used to save and improve as many lives as possible. Patients may be listed for transplant based on a system of policies developed by the transplant and patient community through national advisory groups.”