A massive row has blown up over health care in Britain after a London hospital flatly denied a life-saving liver transplant to a young man from Northern Ireland.

Gareth Anderson, 19, from Newtownards in County Down, suffered acute liver failure two weeks ago after a weekend drinking binge.

His only hope is an emergency liver transplant but the transplant center at King's College Hospital in London will only do such work on patients who have been alcohol-free for six months.

Gareth's father, Brian, has appealed to the hospital to relax its rules so his son can be admitted.

“I need a life saved here urgently,” he said.

Gareth’s doctor Tony Tham says that King’s College will not make an exception for the 19-year-old.

In a statement yesterday, he said: "There are many patients of all ages waiting for liver transplants. Livers are a scarce resource and demand exceeds supply. Liver transplants in certain settings associated with alcohol are risky and have a poor outcome.”

Anderson said his son had had a couple of what he called “heavy weekends” recently but that he was not a constant drinker.

Gareth was admitted to the Ulster Hospital on August 2 after his skin turned a “jaundiced yellow colour”.

His father said he has never missed a day's work or been treated for any alcohol-related illnesses.

“Most people in this sort of situation get a yellow card, they get a chance to put things right, but my son has got a straight red card and that’s not fair,” he said.