Campaigners voice Ipswich Hospital fears

FEARS for the future of Ipswich Hospital have been voiced following the final decision to move head and neck cancer surgery to Norwich.

FEARS for the future of Ipswich Hospital have been voiced following the final decision to move head and neck cancer surgery to Norwich.

Suffolk's health scrutiny committee yesterday unanimously backed the proposal to move the surgery from Ipswich Hospital to a specialist centre at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

However members of the committee raised concerns that getting rid of the respected service at Ipswich Hospital was “the thin end of the wedge” and other specialisms would follow.

Councillor David Yorke-Edwards said: “I think most of us would agree that the important thing is to get the best treatment and best results - the most cures.

“I think to do that we have to go along with moving the treatment base up to the Norfolk and Norwich.

“The one thing I'm really concerned about is: Is this the thin end of the wedge for Ipswich Hospital?

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“If we support this move does that mean there is someone sitting in the Primary Care Trust (PCT) and Strategic Health Authority (SHA) who says 'we can tick that one off, we've got that through now let's move to the next'?

“Because that would be a very sad thing for the county. We want some assurances that Ipswich will get its turn to provide a centre of excellence at some point too.”

Neonatal care and spinal injuries services at hospitals in the East of England are currently being reviewed by the SHA, and could result in Ipswich Hospital being downgraded in both areas.

Meanwhile colorectal and pancreatic cancer are due to be considered soon and could be moved away from Ipswich for the same justification behind the head and neck move - that specialist centres treating a larger number of patients a year could improve their survival rates.

Peter Espley, acting chairman of the Ipswich Hospital Cancer Services User Group, which campaigned against head and neck cancer being moved from Ipswich Hospital said he was extremely upset at the scrutiny committee's decision, but did not think the user group would ask for a judicial review.

He said: “I'm disappointed that the views of the patients have not been taken into account.

“The committee said they were making the decision in the best interests of patients, but it is not what patients want.

“Only those inside NHS organisations wanted this.

“The scrutiny committee didn't consider the impact the move will have on trauma services.

“We are already looking at what they might want to take away next.”

However Alastair McWhirter, the chief executive of Suffolk PCT, which wanted to see head and neck cancer surgery moved to Norwich, said the future of Ipswich Hospital was not in doubt, although he admitted a policy of centralisation would continue.

He said: “I cannot envisage a situation where Ipswich Hospital would not be a thriving district general hospital.

“There will be changes in the way health is delivered across all sorts of things and I think centralisation overall will continue as a mechanism for delivering some services.

“Ipswich Hospital is held in very high regard. I understand people are concerned but everyone feels this way about their district general hospital.

Hospital chief executive Andrew Reed said: "Our hospital highly values the services we provide and we will make a real contribution to excellence in patient services in the future.

"In the case of head and neck services, there were clear national standards based on national and international evidence providing a clear direction for cancer surgery. We agree that an integrated team between Ipswich Hospital and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital could further strengthen patient experience, building on the strength of both teams.

"We are a major hospital which serves a big population and outside these specific national standards we will defend the services we provide.

"We know there is strong support among the community of Suffolk to retain our services and we want to build on that for a strong future."

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