Gummer backs cancer campaign

A SUFFOLK MP has today called for the public consultation into plans to scrap head and neck cancer to be stopped.John Gummer said the ongoing consultation should be halted until the Anglia Cancer Network (ACN), offers evidence the move would improve patient care, and is able to conclusively say how many head and neck cancer patients are treated at Ipswich Hospital.

A SUFFOLK MP has today called for the public consultation into plans to scrap head and neck cancer to be stopped.

John Gummer said the ongoing consultation should be halted until the Anglia Cancer Network (ACN), offers evidence the move would improve patient care, and is able to conclusively say how many head and neck cancer patients are treated at Ipswich Hospital.

The Suffolk Coastal MP has also tabled a series of questions to the health secretary, Alan Johnson, which reflect his concerns about the proposed move.

He voiced his concerns as The Evening Star's campaign to halt the move from Ipswich to Norwich continues to go from strength to strength -more than 2,000 people have now signed the petition online and in the paper.

He said: “I need to know the basis for the suggestions that there would be lower mortality rates if we move this from Ipswich to Norwich - I need to see the figures.

“What I want for my constituents is the best hope of recovery and if that means you move something from Ipswich I will support it, but you must prove the case.

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“I want to know why it is thought that it would be better to have it all done in Norwich rather than Ipswich, given that Ipswich is already thought to be a fine centre for cancer.”

Mr Gummer said he also wanted to know why clinicians at Ipswich Hospital and bosses at the ACN disagreed on the number of head and neck cancer surgery operations carried out at the hospital, with the ACN saying there were 66 last year and the surgeons saying there were up to 103 - enough to keep the service at Ipswich.

He said: “How can they have a consultation if they haven't even decided what the figures are?

“It can either be because the adding is done differently of they (the ACN) have to say they think the clinicians are telling lies.

“The consultation should be stopped until those that are being consulted have the figures and evidence presented in a clear way which sensible people can then judge.”

Do you think the consultation should be stopped? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

Anglia Cancer Network's view

Audrey Bradford, chief executive of the Anglia Cancer Network, said: "We are in the process of a public consultation on head and neck cancer surgery precisely to hear all views possible, presented to us in a variety of ways. We want to keep hearing those views and arguments.

"The figure of 66 new cases used in the consultation was supplied to Anglia Cancer Network in December 2007 by Ipswich Hospital. The network wrote to the hospital on 8 April 2008 inviting the hospital to submit any changes to the information. An alternative figure has not been supplied.

"The guidance states that a team should see a minimum of 100 new cases per annum. The number of new cases being seen at Ipswich is likely to reduce by as much as a third when Essex patients start going to Chelmsford in June.

"The relatively small number of head and neck cancer cases, their variety and complexity and the wide range of clinical expertise required to provide good outcomes means that centralising surgery within a specialist team will contribute to improved outcomes.

“Evidence from 123 studies on all cancers reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute demonstrates that the larger the number of cases treated by a team the better the outcomes. The benefit of treatment by high volume providers can be striking.”

The campaign

The Evening Star is fighting to keep life-saving head and neck cancer surgery where it belongs - at Ipswich Hospital.

The Anglia Cancer Network (ACN) has recommended moving the service to Norwich, leaving patients and their loved-ones facing a 100-mile round trip at one of the most stressful times of their lives.

The network claims the switch is needed to comply with national guidelines which aim to create specialist centres to deal with head and neck cancer.

But expert clinicians at Ipswich Hospital say the move would be catastrophic for patients and the hospital.

They warn that the highly-regarded oral and maxillofacial department could be downgraded as a result, meaning it may not be able to deal with facial trauma cases, which could even have an impact on the Accident and Emergency department.

Patients who have been treated by the Ipswich surgeons, including Ipswich Town legend Sir Bobby Robson, have also spoken out against the move, as have a national charity, the Ipswich Hospital cancer user group and thousands of Suffolk residents, worried that the hospital may lose such a vital service.