Bunwell cancer drug campaigner David Blackett dies

A man who gave hope to cancer patients across the country with his successful campaign to have a life-prolonging drug made available on the NHS has died.

David Blackett, 68, from Bunwell, died last Thursday after an almost three-year battle against kidney and lung cancer.

His public campaign to have the drug Sutent funded by the NHS played a part in the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) deciding last year to offer the treatment to terminally ill kidney cancer patients in England despite previously labelling the drug as too costly.

His family say they are extremely proud of the legacy he leaves – shown by the dozens of sympathy cards they have received, calling the much-loved husband, father and grandfather an inspiration.

His widow Sue, 64, said: 'He really was an inspiration to us. It was never a case of 'why me?' As he would say, 'why not me?' One of the things he used to say to me was 'it's life'. You deal with it and you move on.'

Mr Blackett, a keen sportsman and loyal Norwich City fan, was born in Old Costessey and grew-up in the Lakenham area. He worked as a quantity surveyor with his last job being at RG Carter construction group in Bury St Edmunds.

Described as a 'great family man' who enjoyed throwing himself into all aspects of village life, Mr Blackett played an instrumental role in the construction of Bunwell Village Hall, which opened in 1989. He had also served as a member of Bunwell Parish Council for about 20 years and was a governor at Bunwell Primary School.

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But he was forced into retirement shortly after his diagnosis in February 2008, when doctors said he would not live to see another Christmas.

Consultants advised that his best hope was to take Sutent, which was not available on the NHS at the time.

It meant Mr Blackett had to pay �3,400 for every cycle of treatment himself – a cost met in the end by private medical insurance which could only be obtained if Mrs Blackett gave up her own hopes of staying at home with him and continuing work.

Not prepared to let this happen, he began a public campaign for the drug to be provided by the NHS, which gathered support from MP Richard Bacon.

When, months later, doctors discovered his kidney tumour had reduced thanks to the treatment the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital's drugs and theraputics committee finally decided to prescribe Sutent to Mr Blackett for free.

Then in February 2009 campaigners were delighted when NICE announced it would make Sutent available on the NHS.

His son, James Blackett, 38, who undertook a 140-mile sponsored bike trip from Tasburgh to Westminster to draw attention to his father's campaign, said: 'For me it's been the worst of times because it was my dad being ill but it was the best of times because of everything he achieved.'

Mr Blackett also has a daughter Anna Blackett, 40, and two grandchildren, Ella, nine, and Connie, seven.

A thanksgiving and celebration of his life will take place at St Michael and All Angels Church in Bunwell next Thursday at 2pm.

Donations can be made to Wymondham-based charity Star Throwers, which provides support and advice to cancer patients.