Out-dated figures used for cancer move

FIGURES being used in a public consultation to decide whether to move vital cancer services from Ipswich to Norwich were out of date, it can be revealed today.

FIGURES being used in a public consultation to decide whether to move vital cancer services from Ipswich to Norwich were out of date, it can be revealed today.

Anglia Cancer Network and the Suffolk Primary Care Trust have been working on figures from 2004 - 2006 which show the head and cancer team at Ipswich Hospital worked on average of 66 cases a year, well below national guidelines for a specialist centre.

However, new figures reveal that in 2007, the number of cases shot up to 82, 69 of whom were from East Suffolk.

Although it is still below national guidelines of 100 operations being carried out each year it reveals yet another flaw in the consultation - undertaken to give the people of Suffolk clear information on a controversial topic.

Earlier this month at a public meeting, it was revealed that there was no published clinical evidence to show that specialist centres like the one planned in Norwich are best for patient care.

The Evening Star is running a campaign to try to prevent the move of surgery for head and neck cancer patients to Norwich, forcing people to travel more than 40 miles while ill and meaning family and friends may not be able to visit them.

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So far more than 2,000 people have signed the petition.

Hospital chief executive Andrew Reed confirmed that the head and neck cancer team had a “significant workload”, but he claimed the number of operations failed to meet national guidelines requiring 100 operations a year are carried out at specialist centres.

He said: “We have validated the data produced by our clinicians about head and neck cancer activity for 2007.

“What this validation shows is that the hospital's head and neck cancer team is very busy with a significant workload - arguably one of the biggest single teams in East Anglia.

“However, the work undertaken by the Ipswich Hospital team in 2007 for east Suffolk residents alone does not meet the minimum criterion of 100 cases.

“We are in close dialogue with the Norfolk and Norwich on the basis that an integrated team between our two hospitals could further strengthen the patient experience, building on the strength of both teams and seeking to protect in particular the provision of non-cancer oral maxillofacial surgery at Ipswich Hospital.

“It is my strong view that any solution to achieve compliance with improving outcomes guidance - to make sure we are reaching the gold standard in cancer care - for head and neck needs to make good use of a well functioning multi-disciplinary team at Ipswich Hospital that can demonstrate that it has the skills, the experience and the survival rates to make a real contribution to an excellent service for patients.”

Anglia Cancer Network received figures from Ipswich Hospital Trust in December 2007 which estimated that it had around 66 new head and neck cancer cases between 2004 and 2006.

Audrey Bradford, the network's director, added: “When we get the latest figures from Ipswich Hospital, we will validate them as soon as possible. It is important that everybody is using the same data for calculating the level of cases.”

Carole Taylor-Brown, chief executive of Suffolk Primary Care Trust, said: “These new figures are consistent to those originally submitted for the consultation document.

“It is important that we achieve the best possible cancer care for our patients and keeping as much service as possible local, while getting the best for our patients from centralised specialist centres.”

Should head and neck services be retained in Ipswich? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstar letters@eveningstar.co.uk