Health bosses back cancer services move

SUFFOLK health bosses have given their support to plans to move head and neck cancer surgery away from Ipswich Hospital.

Rebecca Lefort

SUFFOLK health bosses have given their support to plans to move head and neck cancer surgery away from Ipswich Hospital.

At yesterday's Primary Care Trust (PCT) meeting the trust's board officially gave its backing to the Anglia Cancer Network's (ACN) controversial plan to move the service to Norwich.

But the PCT, which will now present its views to the ACN before a final decision is taken, stressed the need to maintain trauma services at Ipswich, to improve transport for patients, and to allow patients in west Suffolk to be treated in Cambridge if they wanted.

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Caroline Tuohy, the PCT's director of commissioning and development, told the meeting: “The dilemma is between securing the best possible outcomes through specialisation and getting services provided as locally as possible.

“It is a dilemma and there is no easy option. We have to accept that and do the best we can within that.”

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She added that the PCT could not recommend keeping the surgery at Ipswich because it did not comply with national guidelines which say centres should see a minimum of 100 new cases a year and serve a population of one million people - something Ipswich does not do.

However she said the PCT would pay close attention to the impact any move would have on trauma services, after clinicians at Ipswich Hospital said the emergency services on offer could suffer if experts leave or are working in Norwich and are unable to provide 24-hour facial trauma support.

She said: “The main concern is about trauma services. It is a pretty fragile service that we have here at the moment and we have to look at the resilience of the service regardless (of the head and neck decision).”

During the board meeting Anne Nicholls, chairwoman of the former Suffolk PCT patient and public involvement forum, spoke against the move to Norwich.

She said: “There is a very strong feeling among people that the Ipswich service is a very good service.

“We feel that the arguments are based entirely on numbers rather than quality of care.

“What we don't seem to have seen at all is any mortality figures.”

However the PCT board voted to endorse the ACN's view that head and neck cancer surgery should be carried out at Norwich, with diagnostic and follow-up care provided at Ipswich.

The public consultation into the plans ends on Wednesday and a decision will be taken at the ACN's board meeting in July.

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