'We will not give up cancer fight'

IT'S not over yet.Dedicated campaigners vowed to keep fighting today despite Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) rubberstamping the decision to scrap head and neck cancer surgery at Ipswich Hospital.

Rebecca Lefort

IT'S not over yet.

Dedicated campaigners vowed to keep fighting today despite Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) rubberstamping the decision to scrap head and neck cancer surgery at Ipswich Hospital.

During the PCT's board meeting yesterday the evidence of experts who supported the move to centralisation at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital was presented, however those who disagreed with the plans were not heard until after the board had voted.

It also emerged during the meeting that within 20 years the surgery may not even be carried out in Norwich, with further centralisation meaning it could all move to London.

Ben Gummer, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Ipswich, said he thought the decision was a “travesty” and the decision-making process a whitewash, and vowed to keep battling against the move.

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He added: “They haven't put the comments from Professor Iain Hutchison (oral and maxillofacial consultant) and Professor Brian Avery (dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at The Royal College of Surgeons) in the report because they disagreed with them.

“The document was completely one-sided and the meeting was completely one-sided.”

At the meeting doctors from the Norwich hospital spoke in favour of the plans to create a team combining consultants from Ipswich and Norwich, but with all major surgery carried out in Norfolk.

However Ipswich Hospital doctors were not present and the public were not allowed to speak about their concerns until after the decision was taken.

The board was told the move was needed to comply with national guidelines which state cancer centres must treat at least 100 new cases a year and serve a population of at least one million people, which Ipswich Hospital does not do.

But Paul Montgomery, consultant ear nose and throat surgeon at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, said the rules could mean Norwich was unable to provide the service within two decades.

He said: “Probably within a generation's time there will be much less surgery because head and neck cancer will be treated in other ways with new technology.

“This could mean surgery will have to go to bigger and bigger centres. There may be just one centre in East Anglia or the whole of the East of England.”

The PCT's decision means unless Suffolk County Council's health scrutiny committee refers the plans to the health secretary head and neck cancer surgery will move away from Ipswich, despite the overwhelming opposition of patients.

- Are you disappointed head and neck surgery will be moved from Ipswich? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

A LEADING consultant spoke of his great concern after the decision was taken to move head and neck cancer services away from Ipswich Hospital.

Huw Davies, who is head of Ipswich's oral and maxillofacial department, said he was saddened at the downgrading of the head and neck cancer unit and raised fears about the future of the hospital.

The consultant surgeon, who performed life-saving surgery on former Ipswich Town and England manager Sir Bobby Robson in 1995, said: “The decision was predictable; you always felt during the consultation period that the decision had already been made.

“I am very disappointed for the Suffolk patients because nobody seems to have listened to their concerns.

“We are not going to be able to recruit new staff or retain staff and we will lose our training recognition, so we will miss out on having specialist registrars in Ipswich.

“I am concerned about other services in Suffolk and the future of Ipswich Hospital.”

Mr Davies said the decision will mean incidents of maxillo facial trauma, of which Ipswich saw 2,000 cases last year, will now have to be dealt with elsewhere.

“We deal with a range of injuries from serious gunshot wounds to broken teeth to serious assaults and road traffic accidents.

“It can be dangerous to transfer patients long distances when they are bleeding heavily,” he said.

“Centralisation works very well in large cities where hospitals are close and travelling times are reasonable.

“In Suffolk, a rural area, patients are now faced with considerable difficulties travelling and high travel costs. Travelling issues have been ignored.”

He added: “We can only hope that the Health Scrutiny Committee will reject the decision to transfer the service to Norwich.”

Patients and campaigners also voiced their disgust at the decision by Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) to back the plans to move surgery to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

Peter Whitfield, who already had to travel to Norwich for treatment after developing a melanoma on his ear, spoke of his disappointment at the decision. The 81-year-old from Sutton, near Woodbridge, had pleaded with health bosses to overturn the decision to avoid other people having to travel the same long distance as he is forced to for treatment.

“To say I am very disappointed is putting it mildly,” he said.

Peter Espley, acting chairman of the Ipswich Hospital Cancer Services User Group, said: “I am saddened for all the patients and carers who are not going to be getting the service they want.”

- TODAY we vow to fight on.

The decision by the Suffolk Primary Care Trust to push through the re-location of head and neck cancer surgery away from Ipswich is simply wrong.

Our PCT should be fighting for Suffolk patients not agreeing with ill-thought through policies and guidelines like these.

But unfortunately Suffolk NHS bosses are not battling on our behalf.

It is up to our community and your newspaper to keep this fight going and insist that our services at Ipswich Hospital remain where we need them and where we want them and this must include head and neck cancer surgery.

We urge the scrutiny committee at Suffolk County Council to refer these plans to the health secretary - it is the least Suffolk deserves and expects.

This decision goes against the grain of public opinion and it goes against the grain of common sense.

We have no choice but to continue this battle.

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