Cancer services shake-up on cards

CANCER services in Suffolk and two other counties are being reviewed as health bosses look at creating a new network of specialist centres, it has been revealed.

CANCER services in Suffolk and two other counties are being reviewed as health bosses look at creating a new network of specialist centres, it has been revealed.

The two main health authorities in Suffolk and Essex have ditched plans to create a number of super-centres dealing with operations for rare cancers after the proposals sparked public outcry.

Under proposals made by the Mid Anglia Cancer Network, it was feared some rarer cancer services, like head and neck and urology could have moved from Ipswich Hospital to Colchester or Chelmsford.

Patients feared the long distances could have caused problems for them and their families.

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Now those plans have been axed - although it remains unclear exactly what will now happen in the region.

The Essex Strategic Health Authority (SHA) will be reviewing the cancer networks across the north and south of the county, which one NHS trust believes will pave the way for centres across a new Essex-wide network.

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Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire SHA has said East Suffolk Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust will join a new cancer network, yet to be agreed.

There are currently three networks in the affected areas: Mid Anglia, Norfolk and Waveney and West Anglia, covering Cambridgeshire, Uttlesford, in Essex, west Suffolk, and parts of Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Bedfordshire.

The informal consultation on the Mid Anglia Cancer Network's strategic plan has shown there is support for the SHAs' preferred plan of having centres for rarer cancers in more than one of the hospitals in the network.

And last night, the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire SHA confirmed there could be some movement of surgery for rarer cancers, depending on the new network that is formed.

Deborah Knight, head of clinical services at the NSC SHA, assured that people's basic care would stay the same.

She said: "There will be some movement but I do not think it will be that extensive."

Tony Jewell, clinical director and director of public health at NSC SHA, said: "The informal consultation process helped confirm for us what matters most to members of the public and our local health systems.

"We will be proposing new arrangements for cancer networks across Anglia as an outcome of this work.

"There will be carefully planned transitional arrangements, ensuring continuity of care and patient safety at all times."

Andrew Reed, chief executive of the Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust, said: "The feedback and viewpoints from patients about cancer services at our hospital has been very positive and underlines how proud all of us are - staff and patients - of cancer services here in Ipswich.

"Managing the transition from Mid Anglia Cancer Network to a new network will be very important and we must ensure that we maintain standards for our patients during this process."

A statement from the SHA said the proposals would be developed with partners across the three counties, as part of its health strategy discussion process.

Proposals will be drawn up by the end of September, at the same time as agreement on the strategic framework.

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