Concern for hospital's cancer services

A PATIENT group has today expressed concerns over the future of certain cancer services at Ipswich Hospital, The Evening Star can exclusively reveal.The Star has learnt that those who need specialist surgery in the head and neck cancer unit at Ipswich Hospital, may be forced to have it at another hospital in Norwich or Chelmsford.

A PATIENT group has today expressed concerns over the future of certain cancer services at Ipswich Hospital, The Evening Star can exclusively reveal.

The Star has learnt that those who need specialist surgery in the head and neck cancer unit at Ipswich Hospital, may be forced to have it at another hospital like Norwich or Chelmsford.

The Anglia Cancer Network is meeting on Friday to consider the future of several specialist services across the region, including the head and neck cancer services at Ipswich Hospital.

However a spokeswoman for NHS East of England insisted that head and neck services will not cease at Ipswich Hospital.

She added: “Specialised surgery will be performed at a centre which undertakes a larger number of procedures. Initial diagnosis and follow up post surgery will continue to be provided at the local hospitals, including Ipswich, so those services would not be closed.”

The plans have caused considerable concern for those representing the users.

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Prue Rush, of the Ipswich Hospital Public Patient Involvement Forum, said: “This could mean patients have to travel a lot further during a time of great anxiety.

“Funding follows the patients so the hospital could lose funding. Ipswich Hospital is already a centre of excellence so there is no need for the services to go elsewhere. I'm sure patients would say they have been cared for very well there.

“People's carbon footprint would increase and the cost of transporting people to hospital would also increase, which would particularly concern those in rural areas. It's time consuming, expensive and puts a lot more stresses and strains on patients.

“The idea of removing this wonderful facility is a body blow to the staff in that unit and the patients.”

The Cancer Services User Group has prepared a response to this issue and will be speaking at the meeting. It is understood that the papers will be ratified on Friday.

Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital said: “We are part of the cancer network and we are working with everyone to make sure the best possible outcome is reached.”

A spokesman for NHS East of England said: “The national Improving Outcomes Guidance was developed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence using national and international research evidence on how to improve outcomes for patients. All cancer networks in the country (not only in east Suffolk) are currently working to implement the Improving Outcomes Guidance.

“The evidence for head and neck cancers suggests that better surgical outcomes are achieved by reducing the number of specialist surgical teams who provide this surgery and each surgical team having a catchment population of one million people, which increases the number of patients each surgical team treats and thereby helps to maintain a high level of surgical expertise.

“That does not mean that head and neck services will cease at Ipswich Hospital but that specialised surgery will be performed at a centre which undertakes a larger number of procedures. Initial diagnosis and follow up post surgery will continue to be provided at the local hospitals, including Ipswich, so those services would not be closed.

“Ipswich Hospital is part of the Anglia Cancer Network, which is currently identifying the possible options for the future provision of this specialist surgery to ensure that it complies with the guidance.”

What do you think of the proposals? What could it mean for you? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.