Patients' anger over cancer closure

HEAR these voices, Mr Brown.That is The Evening Star's message today to Prime Minister Gordon Brown as we ask him to listen to the views of the patients treated by Ipswich Hospital's under-threat head and neck cancer surgeons.

HEAR these voices, Mr Brown.

That is The Evening Star's message today to Prime Minister Gordon Brown as we ask him to listen to the views of the patients treated by Ipswich Hospital's under-threat head and neck cancer surgeons.

The Star has been inundated with people desperate to keep the excellent and life-saving service in their town since launching a campaign to block a recommendation to move the surgery to Norwich.

So far more than 1,000 people have signed our petition and now we ask the Prime Minister to take notice.

The Anglia Cancer Network, which has recommended the changes, claims the move is needed to create a centre of excellence in Norwich and that not enough people live around Ipswich to make the centre viable here.

Yet head and neck patients cared for at Ipswich Hospital, including Sir Bobby Robson, have nothing but praise for the wonderful staff who looked after them and the professional oral and maxillofacial unit which is now under threat.

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They have also expressed concern that long journeys for treatment would leave them frightened and stressed, putting a strain on them at one of the most distressing times of their lives.

So, Mr Brown, listen to these patients, the people you represent, and take note, before vital services are taken away from the people of Ipswich.

DAD-of-two Martin Bates was scared and worried when he was diagnosed with cancer in his saliva glands.

But he said he received outstanding treatment at Ipswich Hospital and was grateful that everything could be done so close to home.

Mr Bates, 43, of Glencoe Road, Ipswich, said: “The care was superb. The surgeons could not have been better.

“It was a very worrying time and it would be awful if I had to go to Norwich.

“I am 85per cent cured so to think if I needed another operation I would have to travel so far is not a nice thought.”

His wife, Helen, 37, added that she too had been grateful her husband had been able to get life-saving treatment in Ipswich, which made it easier for all the family, including their two children, aged two and eight months.

She said: “It would have been very stressful, especially with a young family.

“It would have been impossible to go to see him. We really hope the surgery stays in Ipswich.”

TENNIS coach John Dixon was treated for non-Hodgkin lymphoma in his neck in 2003.

The 51-year-old of Goring Road, Ipswich, now feels strongly that head and neck cancer surgery is a vital service which needs to stay in Ipswich.

He said: “Cancer is a very emotive illness. Having been through the system I am living proof that the Ipswich head and neck unit is a very efficient facility.

“I would have thought with the ever growing population of rural Suffolk it would be common sense to develop the head and neck unit, not downsizing.

“Moving the facility to Norwich would be disastrous, as they have not taken into account the emotional needs of the patient, family and friends.”

Mr Dixon, who was originally warned the cancer may leave him dead, added that he had spent between two and three days in hospital when he had had his surgery and was pleased it had been so close to his home.

He said: “When you are told you have cancer it is awful, and I could not imagine having to go to Norwich as well - it would be a nightmare.

“Travel would be disastrous and it would have a major impact on people.”

PENSIONER Russell Jacobs said he was very concerned that Ipswich would lose its outstanding head and neck cancer surgeons after he received first-class care at the hospital.

Mr Jacobs, 78, of Robin Drive, Ipswich, had an operation to treat cancer in his cheek in January.

He said: “The care was excellent - there's no doubt about it, they were brilliant.

“I wouldn't have liked going to Norwich at all, it isn't just up the road, it is a long way away.

“It would have been hard to get there and I don't know what I would have done. The road isn't the best of places to travel.

“I'm doing well now but it is still a worry for me, but I'm also thinking of other people in Suffolk because it must be awful for them.”

WIDOW Doreen Rolando is said the proposal to send patients to Norwich instead of Ipswich made her feel like a number rather than a person.

Mrs Rolando, 74, of Blandford Road, Ipswich, said she had received outstanding care when she developed a tumour in her saliva glands ten years ago and was treated at Ipswich.

She said: “The care was wonderful and so were the staff.

“At the time, my husband was alive and he was able to visit me throughout while I stayed in hospital for the surgery.

“I think it would have been awful and a lot more stressful if I'd had to go to Norwich.

“When we have a perfectly good hospital here in Ipswich I fail to see the logic of having to travel miles to a strange place. It might work out on paper but as for the patients, well we just seem to be a number now and if the numbers don't add up changes get made without thinking.

“They do not realise what it will do to the patients and the staff.”

Heartfelt letters from patients

Maureen Dorling, of Wren Avenue, Ipswich, wrote: “I cannot believe the Anglia Cancer Network would even consider this. To me and my family, and I am sure all who have been treated at Ipswich Hospital by those elite teams, it is unimaginable. Cancer patients and their families are obviously the last thing on the network's mind.

“I underwent neck and tongue surgery and from my first appointment and to date I was and am still treated with care, understanding and compassion, I was never a number or just another face. I mattered, also my family mattered.

“The whole team showed this, they were always only a phone call away.

“To even think of splitting them up and sending patients as far away and Norwich when they are so ill that to move outside is an effort let along travel miles away, is madness.

“As a patient I ask you to think again. You are wrong on this. Listen to the patients and their family - they are the ones that matter. Leave the teams and operations at Ipswich Hospital.

“I really can not begin to express what damage you will do if you go ahead with this. Knowing I was near my partner and family was so comforting.

“You want to add all this misery because of national guidelines?”

David Paine, of Neptune Square, Ipswich, wrote: “Some seven years ago during a routine visit to my dentist I was found to have a malignant oral condition and was immediately referred to Huw Davies and his team.

“Under their care I underwent several surgical procedures over a period of time and now, happily, am in good health.

“From the moment I was referred to Huw Davies he and his team have given my wife and myself incredible support though a traumatic time. The care and interest he takes in his patients is terrific and to have the peace of mind that advice and further assistance if required is only a phone call away is a great comfort to us and to all his patients.

“We are so lucky to have a specialist of Huw Davies' calibre in our county and it is a disgrace that these proposed changes are even being considered.

“We, like Sir Bobby Robson, will do everything we can to make sure that all cancer care under Huw Davies and his colleagues is retained at Ipswich.”

Anglia Cancer Network's view

THE Anglia Cancer Network (ACN) has recommended scrapping head and neck cancer surgery at Ipswich Hospital and moving it to Norwich.

The ACN also considered keeping the surgery as it currently is or splitting it between Ipswich and Norwich, but rejected both these options.

The body, which co-ordinates the development of cancer services for the 2.4million residents of Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Peterborough and part of Bedfordshire, said it was following national guidelines about the provision of head and neck cancer.

The Improving Outcomes Guidance issued by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that surgery is carried out in centres that serve a population of approximately 1million people and treat at least 100 new cases each year, which Ipswich Hospital does not do.

A spokesman for the Anglia Cancer Network, said: “Healthcare professionals and people who have been through head and neck cancer treatment can make a helpful contribution to the consultation, enabling us to best shape the future of the service. Those with first hand experience of treatment are encouraged to feed back their views or attend one of the public meetings to find out more about the consultation.”

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