So, who did fight for Ipswich Hospital?

WHO fought for Ipswich Hospital?

Rebecca Lefort

WHO fought for Ipswich Hospital? As the battle over head and neck cancer raged, dividing lines were drawn firmly on the ground with parties arguing passionately on either side, while some preferred to stay in the safer middle ground.

Health reporter REBECCA LEFORT looks at the characters involved in the battle and evaluates how hard they fought to keep head and neck cancer surgery at Ipswich Hospital rather than move it to Norwich.

IT'S time to hand out the honours.

Who should be praised for their determination to keep head and neck cancer surgery at Ipswich Hospital and who should be criticised for their failure to fight to keep the vital service in Suffolk?

Today The Evening Star evaluates politicians, bureaucrats and itself, giving organisations and individuals marks out of ten for the effort they put into saving cancer care at Ipswich Hospital.

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It was the Anglia Cancer Network (ACN) which formally put forward the plans which said head and neck cancer surgery should be moved from Ipswich Hospital to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital to comply with national guidelines that say centres must treat 100 new cases of the disease a year.

The reasoning behind this was to make sure the surgeons carrying out the work get as much experience in the procedures as possible.

Yet no evidence about outcomes was ever presented during the debate and there was never a satisfactory explanation for why the centre must be in Norwich and not Ipswich, which has a highly regarded oral and maxillofacial department.

NHS Suffolk, formerly Suffolk Primary Care Trust, also tried to push through the plans.

But neither of the bodies had counted on the overwhelming opposition they would encounter.

More than 3,000 people signed an Evening Star petition against the move and many spoke out about their concerns over travel and the impact the move would have on the hospital's other services.

Unfortunately it was not enough and the health scrutiny committee voted to back the plans.

Now the only hope lies with health secretary Alan Johnson personally intervening and saving the cancer surgery at Ipswich.

- What marks would you give people in the battle to save head and neck cancer surgery? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail

The public


MORE than 3,000 people signed The Evening Star's petition against the move from Ipswich to Norwich, making it one of the Star's most well-supported campaigns ever.

The Star asked the people of Suffolk to make their voices heard and they did so loudly and clearly, sending a heartfelt message to the health bosses who were so out of touch with public opinion.

Many went a step further, sending letters expressing their outrage.

And others, particularly those that had been touched by the terrible disease, gave up much time and effort to attend public meetings and speak passionately about their concerns.

The NHS speaks a lot about getting patients truly engaged with health care. This was an example of patients doing just that. What a shame it is that the NHS took no notice.

Andrew Reed, Mike Brookes and Ipswich Hospital


IPSWICH Hospital's bosses, chief executive Andrew Reed and chairman Mike Brookes, found they had a tightrope to walk when the controversy surrounding head and neck cancer emerged.

They knew that the service their clinicians provided was of an extremely high quality, and Mr Reed was willing to say so publicly.

Yet Mr Brookes did not speak out, and at the hospital's board meeting the board decided not to fight the plans.

The hospital hopes that by being compliant on the head and neck issue it may be luckier with other cancer controversies, even becoming a centre of excellence itself for another specialism.

Hopefully it is right and medical expertise will be pumped this way, with the Strategic Health Authority willing to take services from Norwich and move them to Ipswich as well as the other way round.

But as centralisation becomes an increasingly relevant issue, particularly in cancer, the hospital will need to start sticking up for itself, and its patients.

Mr Brookes gets just one out of ten but with Mr Reed's five the average comes down to a paltry three. Poor effort, you two.

Chris Mole


IPSWICH'S MP has been reluctant to commit to a position about the move.

He spoke to clinicians at the hospital and health chiefs around the county and was genuinely concerned about the proposals, but as the plans were ultimately coming from his Labour government Mr Mole has not wanted to rock the boat too much.

However, when push came to shove he finally spoke out and said he was worried about the impact on trauma services.

And now, after the decision has gone through, he has pledged to raise the topic with the health secretary.

Mr Mole needs to realise that he will have to do better next time and show the people of Ipswich, the people that voted him into the corridors of power and could easily remove him from them, that he will fight for Ipswich Hospital as if his life depends on it.

John Gummer and Ben Gummer


BOTH John Gummer, MP for Suffolk Coastal, and Ben Gummer, the Conservative's parliamentary candidate for Ipswich, have worked extremely hard to stop head and neck cancer surgery leaving Ipswich.

John Gummer spoke against the move from the start, fearing the impact it would have on his constituents who live so far away from the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

He attended one of the public consultations into the move and spoke out against the plans, highlighting the bizarre health authority boundaries which cause so many problems.

His son Ben also campaigned hard against the move, collecting thousands of signatures which he presented to the Department of Health.

The Gummers even managed to use their contacts to get Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, to visit Ipswich Hospital in person and join the campaign against the move.

The Evening Star


THE Evening Star is committed to fighting for the people of Ipswich.

So when it became clear that moving head and neck cancer surgery from Ipswich to Norwich would be bad for Ipswich Hospital and its patients the Star began an urgent campaign.

This saw the paper's reporters speak to charities, politicians, doctors, dentists, the public and health bosses in an attempt to get to the bottom of the reasons behind the move and its true impact.

The paper gave a voice to the people of Suffolk and a platform to those trying to fight the authorities.

Ultimately however the campaign has not yet been successful, although the Star has not given up and continues to press for health secretary Alan Johnson to intervene.

Next time the Star will have to fight even harder to make sure Ipswich Hospital's future stays secure.

Carole Taylor-Brown and NHS Suffolk


AS chief executive of Suffolk's primary care trust Carole Taylor-Brown's role is to fight as hard as she can for the people of Suffolk, regardless of regional or national dictate.

Yet the NHS manger seemed more concerned with pleasing her former masters at the Strategic Health Authority who were determined that the only option was for head and neck surgery to go.

Mrs Taylor-Brown could have argued that instead of centralising the service at Norwich it should be based at Ipswich's top-notch centre.

Even if she had lost that battle she would have shown the people of Suffolk that she was prepared to put her career on the line for what was best for the county.

Instead she, and NHS Suffolk, tried to silence their detractors, telling clinicians not to voice their concerns.

Unless she shows her willingness to stand up for Suffolk soon the calls for her to go, already voiced by MP John Gummer, will grow louder and louder.

The Anglia Cancer Network


AS a body set up simply to implement the rules of the Strategic Health Authority (SHA) the Anglia Cancer Network (ACN) did not have much choice but to do as it was told.

And it was told in no uncertain terms that the only option which could be considered was scrapping head and neck cancer operations at Ipswich.

Yet its director, Audrey Bradford, promised time and time again during the public consultation that no decision had been made and all views would be taken into account.

This was clearly not true. The reaction to the plans was overwhelmingly negative and if the views of the people that were consulted mattered the ACN would have been forced to reconsider.

Instead it carried on regardless and held its board meeting in private.

Huw Davies and Lynne Fryer


ORAL and maxillofacial consultants Huw Davies and Lynne Fryer showed real bravery by deciding to speak out about their concerns for the future of their department at Ipswich Hospital.

Many clinicians and hospital staff feel scared to speak to the press about issues they care deeply about because they fear for their jobs.

Yet Mr Davies and Miss Fryer were so disgusted with they way the decisions were being taken and the impact it would have on the hospital that they put their careers on the line.

Miss Fryer even admitted she would probably leave if head and neck cancer surgery went.

And it turned out the pair were right to have been worried as NHS Suffolk tried to muzzle them from speaking out about inaccurate data.

Ipswich Hospital Cancer Services User Group


THE volunteer members of the Ipswich Hospital Cancer Services User Group have acquitted themselves fantastically during their fight to keep head and neck cancer at Ipswich Hospital.

The group's sole purpose is to work for the best possible cancer care at the hospital. They are not paid, they are not professionals and they are not political.

But they have all been touched by cancer and have the desire to make a difference.

They thoroughly researched the topic so they were able to give an informed and articulate presentation at the public consultation meetings.

The user group could have done no more to fight on behalf of the hospital. The people of Ipswich are lucky to have such a dedicated band of health campaigners on their doorstep.

Suffolk's health scrutiny committee


SUFFOLK'S elected councillors could have stepped in to save the day and refer the controversial decision to the secretary of state.

The committee started well by pledging to consider all the options in great depth and make a decision which would be in the best interests of the people of Suffolk.

They called in an expert, asked probing questions of NHS Suffolk and voiced their concerns in their earlier meetings.

Yet they appeared to collectively lose their bottle when crunch-time came.

They ignored the advice of the expert they had invited and did not discuss once the impact the move could have on trauma services - a big part of the debate.

They appeared to be overwhelmed by NHS Suffolk's insistence that the only possible move was centralisation.