Surgeon's sadness over cancer loss

A top doctor has today said the decision to scrap pancreatic cancer surgery at Ipswich Hospital is bad news for patients and staff.

SUFFOLK: A top doctor has today said the decision to scrap pancreatic cancer surgery at Ipswich Hospital is bad news for patients and staff.

The East of England Specialised Commissioning Group's (SCG) decision to move the service from Ipswich to Addenbrooke's in Cambridge is another blow for the Heath Road hospital, which has already lost head and neck cancer surgery services. The SCG also devised the plans to treat serious heart attack patients outside the county.

The SCG argue that the move has been made in a bid to improve the cancer's extremely low survival rate by creating a centre of excellence. However many patients and senior figures in the health sector have opposed the plans, which they claim will lead to a downgraded hospital.

David Rae, consultant surgeon at Ipswich Hospital with a specialist interest in pancreatic surgery, said that the removal of the service from Ipswich will have a knock-on effect on other surgical services because if staff are not involved in performing major elective surgery on a regular basis, it will lead to a “dilution of skills”. This is in turn will mean a number of patients will be moved elsewhere for treatment.

Mr Rae added: “We may be talking about shipping patients a lot further than Addenbrooke's to get treatment. They cannot take everyone at the centre in Cambridge.”

Ipswich Hospital did bid to become the specialist centre for pancreatic cancer surgery in the East of England, but the SCG said Addenbrooke's was better suited as it was closest to complying with national guidelines for care.

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Dr Rory Harvey, consultant medical physician at Bedford Hospital and chair of the Pancreatic Cancer Project Steering Group, said: “For the very small number of patients, who are eligible for surgery, the best available specialised techniques will be offered by the team in Addenbrooke's.”

Ipswich Hospital chief executive Andrew Reed said: “We have always made it clear that we will back the decision made and will work with colleagues to ensure that people in east Suffolk continue to receive excellent pancreatic services.”

What does the future hold for Ipswich Hospital? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

What should happen to our health services - see page eight.