Last chance to retain cancer services

EIGHT elected representatives today held the fragile future of Ipswich's head and neck cancer department in their hands.

Rebecca Lefort

EIGHT elected representatives today held the fragile future of Ipswich's head and neck cancer department in their hands.

As Suffolk County Council's health scrutiny committee was due to rule today on controversial plans to scrap the life-saving cancer surgery at Ipswich Hospital, it emerged that the hospital's oral and maxillofacial department is already suffering because of the shake-up.

Huw Davies, the consultant who saved football legend Sir Bobby Robson's life when he treated him for cancer, said his two associate specialists had already handed in their notice.

And Lynne Fryer, the hospital's other oral and maxillofacial consultant, admitted she was planning to leave unless the committee stepped in to ask for the plans to be referred to the secretary of state.

Mr Davies said: “I feel it's a done deal and always has been. Carole Taylor-Brown (the chief executive of Suffolk Primary Care Trust) has already sent a letter to GPs saying the service will be moved, even before the scrutiny committee meeting.

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“Both my associate specialists have handed in their notice. It is a massive blow.

“But I thought this would happen and did warn about it.

“I'm going to stay and I'll just have to cope.

“There is no way we will be able to recruit people of a high calibre though.”

At today's meeting the scrutiny committee was due to consider evidence from Suffolk PCT which wants the surgery to be moved from Ipswich Hospital to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

The PCT says the move is needed to comply with national guidelines which state that patients should be treated in specialist cancer centres which deal with at least 100 new cases of head and neck cancer a year.

The committee will also have to consider the views of patients, politicians, charities, clinicians, and the more than 3,000 people who have signed The Evening Star's petition against the plans.

Are you worried about the plans to move head and neck cancer surgery to Norwich? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail

A patient's plea

A WIFE made a final impassioned plea today to save head and neck cancer surgery at Ipswich Hospital.

Joan Wilkins, whose husband Haverland had his larynx removed at the hospital in 2002 as a result of cancer, spoke at many of the public consultations into the move, begging health chiefs not take the service away from Ipswich.

Today she said she desperately hoped the health scrutiny committee would ask for the decision to be referred to the health secretary, Alan Johnson.

The 79-year-old of Debenham said: “My message is they must listen to the patients and put them first.

“There is lots of talk about numbers but what really matters is the quality of care people get and they haven't been able to talk about that or give us statistics.

“When we've got a brilliant service at Ipswich why are we trying to change it?

“I feel extremely cross about is and feel so passionately.

“I hope so much the decision is reversed.”