AN Army benevolent fund has come to the aid of an Amesbury pensioner who faces blindness after a primary care trust refused to pay for sight-saving treatment.

The fund is to give a one-off grant of £1,200 to 78-year-old Annellese Moore so she can have an injection to slow down the onset of blindness in her right eye.

Mrs Moore, who has already lost the sight in her left eye, had laser treatment at Portsmouth Queen Alexandra Hospital on her right eye earlier this year, to treat wet age-related macular degeneration.

The specialist told her she needed immediate treatment with the medically-approved injection of Lucentis to "hold the process."

Each injection cost £1,500 and although free to patients living in Portsmouth, it is not available on the NHS to those living outside the city. Her specialist faxed Wiltshire Primary Care Trust that day stressing the importance and urgency of the injection but was told ten days later Mrs Moore was not entitled to the treatment.

Mrs Moore, who lives in Countess Road, Amesbury, also suffers from severe osteoporosis and her case was made known to the Royal National Institute for the Blind, which is staging a campaign to get the drug Lucentis and another drug called Macugen, approved for NHS use.

Mrs Moore said she was advised to contact SSAFA, the Army welfare charity, as her late husband had served in the armed forces. They in turn referred her case to the Army Benevolent Fund.

She said: "I am having a single injection at Portsmouth hospital with the same surgeon who treated me before.

"I am supposed to have an injection every month for three months, but I am hoping even just the one will give me some leeway and will hold the process back."

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended the drugs should only be made available in extreme cases.

Steve Winyard, who has led the RNIB campaign, said England and Wales are now the only two countries in Europe to deny its citizens sight-saving treatments despite the fact that it costs more to support someone once they are blind than it is to provide sight-saving treatment.

A few weeks ago, the Scottish equivalent of NICE sanctioned the use of both drugs by NHS patients north of the border.