Ipswich Hospital's cancer boost

A SUFFOLK hospital has been earmarked for a cancer centre offering specialist surgery to patients in East Anglia suffering from rare forms of the disease, it has been revealed.

A SUFFOLK hospital has been earmarked for a cancer centre offering specialist surgery to patients in East Anglia suffering from rare forms of the disease, it has been revealed.

Mid Anglia Cancer Network (MACN) has backed a unanimous recommendation by an independent review team calling for a specialist centre at Ipswich Hospital, which would offer surgery to people with cancers of the bladder, kidney and prostate.

Ipswich was chosen by the review team of three cancer specialists and an expert patient, instead of hospital trusts in Colchester and Chelmsford.

It would mean that 70 patients a year living in east and central Suffolk and mid and north Essex would travel to Ipswich for specialist treatement.

The majority of cancer sufferers would continue to be treated locally with patients living in north and mid Essex going to hospitals in Colchester or Chelmsford.

All other aspects of the patients' care, like diagnosis, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and post-surgery follow-up, will continue to be given locally.

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The specialist centre is due to open at Ipswich Hospital by April 2005 and will cost £400,000 to £500,000, with most of the money being spent on recruiting extra staff at the hospitals in Chelmsford, Colchester and Ipswich.

Dr David Blainey, MACN lead clinician, said: "Some types of cancer require highly specialised surgery to be cured and it is national policy that this type of surgery should be done in special centres, which will carry out enough of this work to ensure best quality.

"It is expected that lives will be saved."

He added that the specialist cancer centre, which MACN has to provide to gain government accreditation, would ensure people with the rarer cancers receive the best possible care and do not have to travel far for treatment.

However, Essex North MP Bernard Jenkin said he would be challenging the decision to have the centre in Ipswich.

He said: "This is an incredible disappointment. After all that's been promised for a cancer centre in Colchester, this is a terrible slap in the face for people who will now have to travel to Ipswich. You can be sure that I will challenge this."

Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital, said: "We are delighted to have been chosen and look forward to working with our colleagues in all three hospital trusts.

"The reason for setting up these specialist centres is to improve the outcomes of the patients. Some types of cancer need highly specialist surgery to be cured and the national policy is that this type of surgery is to be provided in specialist centres."

A three-month public consultation is expected to begin later this year and the final decision will be taken by the Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridge and Essex strategic health authorities.

A special project group will be set up to look at the issues of providing transport to Ipswich Hospital and overnight accommodation for family and other carers.

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