Fresh anger over cancer changes

YOU don't know what you're doing.That is the message today to health chiefs planning to scrap head and neck cancer surgery at Ipswich Hospital after they admitted there was no published evidence proving their plans would be better for patients.

MOVING head and neck cancer surgery from Ipswich to Norwich may not save any lives, health chiefs admitted today.

That was the shock message which emerged at the latest consultation meeting over the proposals to switch the services.

And it prompted a furious reaction from campaigners anxious to keep the surgery in Ipswich.

Health chiefs planning to scrap head and neck cancer surgery at Ipswich Hospital admitted there was no published evidence proving their plans would be better for patients.

The Anglia Cancer Network (ACN), which has recommended moving the surgery to Norwich, has claimed the switch is necessary to comply with national guidelines that say specialist centres should be created solely to improve care.

However, at Tuesday's public consultation into the plans in Needham Market, Audrey Bradford, director of the ACN, said it was impossible to be sure the move would bring the hoped-for benefits.

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It also emerged at the meeting that confusion reigned regarding the number of patients actually affected, with the ACN saying there were just 66 new cases of head and neck cancer surgery at Ipswich Hospital last year and the doctors carrying out the operations saying the figure was 103 - enough to prompt a u-turn.

Mrs Bradford said: “Until you make changes like this and measure the effect they have it is very difficult to predict what the change will do. It takes years to prove that the changes have taken effect.

“You've got to make wholesale changes, piecemeal changes won't make a difference. This is about change and unfortunately nobody drops the perfect blueprint out of the sky.”

She added that there was evidence in relation to other cancers to show specialised centres improved care, and stressed something needed to be changed in the treatment of head and neck cancers because, nationally, survival rates had not improved in the past 30 years.

Mrs Bradford made the admission after Ipswich Hospital oral and maxillofacial consultants, Huw Davies and Lynne Fryer, voiced their concerns that there was no published evidence behind the plans, which would leave patients facing long journeys and could result in the loss of other facilities at Ipswich Hospital.

Peter Estley, vice chairman of the Ipswich Hospital Cancer Services User Group, said the lack of evidence and the disagreement about figures showed the consultation process was a shambles.

He said: “Their case is not based on evidence. There is not evidence that centralising services will definitely create an improvement.

“We feel that the decision has been taken and they are taking no notice of what patients, carers and families want.”

Meanwhile a spokesman for the ACN said: “The ACN is required to implement the Improving Outcomes Guidance developed by the National Institute of Clinical Effectiveness (NICE). NICE is an independent organisation responsible for providing national guidance on promoting good health and preventing and treating ill health.

“The guidance on head and neck cancer is based on a thorough review of best available evidence which is assessed by experts and has been discussed extensively with leading clinical specialists. There is some evidence to show that survival rates in the UK are lower than other European countries.”

The next consultation into the plans to move head and neck surgery from Ipswich Hospital will take place tomorrow from 2pm to 4pm at the Robert Cross Hall in Ipswich's Corn Exchange. For more information visit

A WIFE made an impassioned plea to health chiefs charged with deciding the fate of head and neck cancer surgery in Suffolk.

Joan Wilkins attended Tuesday's consultation meeting and brought cheers from the room as she stated her case to the Anglia Cancer Network.

The 79-year-old's husband, Haverland, who had his larynx removed at Ipswich Hospital in 2002 because of cancer, sat beside her while she spoke.

She said: “Why has Suffolk got to be the poor relation?

“Travel is not good for patients. The support from family is part of the healing process. Fifty miles there and back again is too long, you can't expect people to travel 100 miles. I wouldn't have been able to visit my husband.

“It seems like you've made your mind up already and have us all here on a fool's errand!”

The Debenham grandmother also brought applause when she pointed out that the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, where the surgery would be taking place, had recently asked visitors to travel by public transport or bikes when possible because they did not have enough parking spaces.

THE Evening Star's campaign to save head and neck cancer at Ipswich Hospital is one of the newspaper's most successful ever.

Since the unelected and unaccountable Anglia Cancer Network (ACN) announced its intention to scrap the life-saving and much respected service at the hospital and transfer it to Norwich almost 1,900 people have signed our petition online or in the paper to fight the changes.

The opposition has been near universal, but despite claiming it is listening to the public the ACN is sticking steadfastly to the guidelines designed by an NHS captain-clipboard out of touch with what patients actually want and need.

There are worries that the cutting won't stop at the cancer surgery, because doctors working in the busy and respected oral and maxillofacial have already said they will leave if cancer surgery goes, meaning the hospital could be less equipped to deal with facial trauma, which could ultimately lead to the downgrading of the hospital's Accident & Emergency department.

Since the Evening Star launched its battle to stop the move we have received hundreds of heartfelt pleas from those touched by head and neck cancer, distraught at the possibility the expert surgery could be about to be taken away from them.

So far numerous public figures and bodies have come out against the proposals, including:

Sir Bobby Robson, a former head and neck cancer patient

Ipswich Hospital's oral and maxillofacial consultants Huw Davies and Lynne Fryer

The Ipswich Hospital Cancer Services User Group

The Mouth Cancer Foundation

Tim Yeo MP

Ben Gummer, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Ipswich

Dentists in Ipswich

Ipswich Hospital's public and patient involvement forum

Dozens of head and neck cancer patients

Thousands of concerned members of the public

Only the ACN that claims the idea is a good one, but it is the body that makes the final call, and so it can ignore the views of all the others.

However the Star and all the other groups determined to keep the service will keep on fighting tooth and nail to keep it where it belongs - at Ipswich Hospital.

Because the decision being taken with so little regard for the public now will affect not only people living in Suffolk today, but future generations, as another brilliant service leaves Ipswich Hospital for good.

ON your bike!

That has to be the message from Suffolk today to proposals from the Anglia Cancer Network to move neck and cancer treatment from Ipswich Hospital to the Norfolk and Norwich.

Bosses at the ACN have now admitted there is no evidence that concentrating the treatment at a single centre will save any lives.

And the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is so congested that patients are asked to travel there by bike rather than car.

This is a total nonsense. Everyone wants to ensure the best treatment is available, but there is no point in moving services more than 40 miles if there is nothing to suggest that survival rates will improve.

It is now becoming more and more apparent that the proposed move has nothing to do with improving patient care.

This is a fight that must be fought and won by the people of Suffolk - the people who will be at risk if this vital service is moved to the other end of the A140.

The pressure must be kept up on the ACN to reverse the transfer of neck and head cancer services to Norwich - it is a move that serves no purpose for the patients and therefore a move that should not even be contemplated by a caring service.