Doctors' concerned about surgery move

DOCTORS today voiced their “deep dismay” at the decision to scrap head and neck cancer surgery at Ipswich Hospital.

DOCTORS today voiced their “deep dismay” at the decision to scrap head and neck cancer surgery at Ipswich Hospital.

Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) met to discuss Suffolk's health scrutiny committee's decision to endorse Suffolk Primary Care Trust's (PCT) controversial move of the service to Norwich.

The move is a blow for health campaigners, clinicians at Ipswich Hospital and the more than 3,000 people who signed an Evening Star petition against it.

It will mean long and difficult journeys for many Suffolk people needing treatment, and could affect other types of surgery and care at Ipswich.

There have been fears that getting rid of the respected service is “the thin end of the wedge” and other specialisms would follow.

Colorectal and pancreatic cancer are due to be considered soon and could be moved away from Ipswich for the same justification behind the head and neck move - that specialist centres treating a larger number of patients a year could improve their survival rates.

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BMA Suffolk secretary Dr Janet Massey said: “Our meeting recorded deep dismay that the health scrutiny committee thought that the actions of the PCT are already so far advanced that there was no point in referring them to the Secretary of State.

“We do not consider that the skills and commitment of the surgeons and their teams, or the expert opinion of Professor Ian Hutchinson, have been given sufficient weight and respect in view of the stated commitment of government to a clinician-led NHS.

“We are particularly concerned about the impact the loss of good surgeons, who will be some other county's gain, on trauma services at Ipswich Hospital.”

The scrutiny committee accepted the PCT's argument that the move of the head and neck cancer surgery was needed to comply with national guidelines about the amount of people treated at specialist cancer centres.

Ipswich Hospital chief executive Andrew Reed has said: “We are a major hospital which serves a big population and outside these specific national standards we will defend the services we provide.”

Should the scrutiny committee have referred the issue to the government? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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