Trust replies to cancer fears

A BODY charged with deciding the future of cancer treatment in Suffolk has today defended its recommendation to scrap some services from Ipswich.The Evening Star is battling to stop a proposal from the Anglia Cancer Network (ACN) that life-saving head and neck cancer surgery should no longer take place at Ipswich Hospital but instead patients should travel to Norwich for operations.

A BODY charged with deciding the future of cancer treatment in Suffolk has today defended its recommendation to scrap some services from Ipswich.

The Evening Star is battling to stop a proposal from the Anglia Cancer Network (ACN) that life-saving head and neck cancer surgery should no longer take place at Ipswich Hospital but instead patients should travel to Norwich for operations.

So far more than 1,500 people have added their voice to the campaign by signing our petition online and in the newspaper.

Before making its recommendation the ACN considered three options; keeping the service as it is, creating a joint service between Ipswich and Norwich, or carrying out all specialist surgery in Norwich.


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It plumped for the third option which has angered staff, patients and cancer user groups because of fears it will cause extra stress for patients and could result in the downgrading of Ipswich's oral and maxillofacial department.

Consultant at the department Huw Davies said: “Staff will leave because they are not doing the interesting work.

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“The whole department will become second rate; no one will want to come to Ipswich.”

While Sir Bobby Robson, who was treated by Mr Davies when he had a malignant melanoma removed from behind his eye, added: “The service I had in Ipswich Hospital was first class and couldn't have been better.

“There were great facilities and I'm really disappointed some of these might be removed from the Ipswich area.

Norwich is a long way to go and not everyone can afford the travel.

“If there is a campaign to keep head and neck cancer surgery in Ipswich I'll be the first to support it.”

But today, in answering ten key questions posed by the Star, the ACN defended its plans and claimed the changes would provide a better cancer service for people in Ipswich.

Suffolk Primary Care Trust is currently consulting on the plans and the latest consultation meeting will be held in Needham Market on Tuesday between 2pm and 4pm.

For more information visit www.suffolkpct.nhs.uk.

The questions

1. Why is treatment that is recognised as being of a high standard being scrapped at Ipswich Hospital?

Most care will take place at Ipswich - all pre-operative and subsequent care will be at Ipswich with only major specialist surgery moving to Norwich. Surgeons at Ipswich will continue to work as part of this larger team that will manage treatment for local people.

Ipswich Hospital, doesn't meet the requirements of the national guidance for the provision of head and neck cancer surgery to enable it to be a designated centre. The requirements require that centres providing head and cancer surgery, which is very complex and specialised, should be provided in centres that serve a population of one million people and treat 100 new cases each year. This is because overall, evidence indicates that for very specialist cancers, outcomes for patients are better.

The numbers of patients treated at Ipswich will reduce further when patients from Essex, currently treated at Ipswich, are transferred to Chelmsford. Even allowing for predicted population growth, the numbers at Ipswich will still fall short of the levels set by the national guidance.

All head and neck cancer services must be compliant with the guidance by the end of 2008.

2. What would the financial implications of the recommendations be? Is it a cost-cutting measure?

The proposed change is about improved patient care. There may be some marginal additional costs for Suffolk PCT as a result of the proposed changes.

3. Why is Norwich being chosen as the centre for surgery specialisms rather than Ipswich?

Previous decisions taken by former cancer networks established Norwich and Addenbrooke's in Cambridge as the designated specialist centres for the Anglia area, with Chelmsford agreed as the designated centre for Essex.

Ipswich has insufficient numbers of patients to become the designated centre and will lose more numbers as Essex patients move to the Chelmsford centre. Norwich meets the requirements for head and neck cancer surgery and in addition has on-site plastic surgery and a designated head and neck cancer ward.

Ipswich Hospital has, however, been designated as a specialist centre for other cancers, for example, gynaecology.

4. Why was the option of combining the head and neck cancer services at both Ipswich and Norwich not recommended - as it has been elsewhere in the country?

The Anglia Cancer Network has looked at some of the examples of “split sites” in particular, Nottingham and Lincoln, Burton and Derby and the South West which were thought to have “split site” surgery.

Nottingham has a joint service with Lincoln. A split site option with major operations on both sites was approved because Lincolnshire has a higher than expected number of cases of head and neck cancer against the national average and serves a sparsely populated area. Because of its unique circumstances it does not provide a precedent for comparison.

5. Are there concerns that the loss of surgery will result in the loss of other services from Ipswich Hospital's oral and maxillofacial department?

Suffolk PCT, as the local commissioner, is giving detailed consideration to the issue but has indicated that if the proposal is implemented as planned they do not consider that the proposal will have a significant adverse affect on these services.

6. Are there concerns that the proposals could ultimately lead to the downgrading of the hospital's Accident and Emergency department?

Suffolk PCT have indicated that they do not consider that these services will be adversely affected and intend to continue to commission these services.

7. Are there concerns that the impact of travelling for treatment would be detrimental to cancer patients?

Many patients with specialist needs, including heart and cancer patients, already travel to specialist centres, for example, Papworth Hospital, Addenbrooke's and London hospitals; the primary concern is that people get the best possible treatment in appropriate accredited specialist centres to give them the best possible outcome.

8. How will patients without access to transport or without the money to pay for travel be able to get to Norwich?

Support is available. There are patient transport schemes and some patients will be eligible for reimbursement of travelling expenses.

9. What about visitors at one of the most troubled times - who will pay their travel fees?

There is no NHS scheme to pay visitors' travel expenses.

10. Is moving other cancer services from Ipswich Hospital being considered?

As a result of expert review, it is proposed that pancreatic cancer surgery should move to Addenbrooke's, which will serve the whole of East of England, as the accreditation given to Ipswich Hospital in 2005 was temporary (for two years).

CONSULTATION DATES

A public consultation into the recommendation to scrap head and neck cancer surgery at Ipswich Hospital has been launched.

Suffolk PCT is hosting the consultation into the proposals from the Anglia Cancer Network which will run until June 4.

A series of forums have been set up and more added to cope with the demand.

The forums are:

n. Tuesday April 22 from 2pm to 4pm, The Ballroom, Limes Hotel, Needham Market

n. Friday April 25 from 2pm to 4pm Robert Cross Hall, Corn Exchange, Ipswich

n. Monday April 28 from 6.30pm to 8.30pm: Conference Centre, Kesgrave War Memorial, Kesgrave

n. Tuesday May 6 from 2pm to 4pm Southgate Community Centre, Bury St Edmunds

n. Tuesday May 27 from 6.30pm to 8.30pm St Felix Church Hall, Gainsborough Road, Felixstowe.

Copies of the consultation document are also available online at www.suffolkpct.nhs.uk/consultation

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