Anger at 'arrogant' health bosses

CANCER campaigners today branded health chiefs “unbelievably arrogant” in the way they are prepared to steamroll opposition and push through proposals to scrap specialist cancer surgery at Ipswich Hospital.

Rebecca Lefort

CANCER campaigners today branded health chiefs “unbelievably arrogant” in the way they are prepared to steamroll opposition and push through proposals to scrap specialist cancer surgery at Ipswich Hospital.

Despite overwhelming opposition to plans to move head and neck cancer surgery from the hospital, health bosses are still recommending doing just that - rubbing salt in the wounds of all those who have fought so hard against the move.

After studying the results of public consultation, Anglia Cancer Network (ACN) has said its preferred option remains moving all the surgery to Norwich, ignoring the wishes of patients and experts and more than 3,000 people who signed an Evening Star petition.

In the report prepared for its board meeting on Wednesday the ACN shows its contempt for public opinion by stating: “Whilst the views of the community are important, neither the structure of the consultation, Anglia Cancer Network, or Suffolk PCT can overturn a key element of government policy on health services.

“As the external feedback analysis suggests consultations are not like elections, a 'one person', 'one vote' principle does not operate.

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“Whilst the views of the community are important, consultations are not referendums.”

Yet throughout the consultation the public was told their views did matter.

In fact the only change the ACN made to its original proposals, despite hearing views against the changes from clinicians at Ipswich Hospital, Ipswich Hospital's board, patient groups, charities, medical bodies and football great Sir Bobby Robson - a cancer patient himself - was to say patients from Suffolk could also choose to travel to Chelmsford or Cambridge for their treatment.

The decision is a massive blow for campaigners desperate to keep the surgery in Ipswich, yet it is not a surprise, for the consultation was revealed as a sham in the Star after it emerged that the Strategic Health Authority had told the ACN the only option it would allow was getting rid of the service at Ipswich.

Today Peter Espley, acting chairman of the Ipswich Hospital Cancer Services User Group, who lives in Wincanton Close, Ipswich, said: “I'm appalled by the reaction of ACN to what patients, carers and families think about this. They're just simply not listening. I have found their attitude unbelievably arrogant.”

And Doreen Roland, a former patient at the head and neck unit in Ipswich who lives in Blandford Road, said: “I quite agree with what people are saying that the head and neck surgery should stay in Ipswich.”

But she added: “I think they've already made up their minds.”

The ACN will now discuss the issue at its board meeting before Suffolk Primary Care Trust makes its final decision later this month.

- Do you feel your views have been listened to? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk