September 25, 2008

Cornwall Will Lose Cancer Services ; Specialist Cancer Surgery Services in Cornwall Should Be Moved Out of the County, an Independent Review is Expected to Recommend Today.

By Andy Greenwood Chief Reporter

Specialist cancer surgery services in Cornwall should be moved out of the county, an independent review is expected to recommend today.

The news will come as a massive blow to campaigners, patients and staff who have fought to keep throat and neck cancer surgery at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Treliske.

They fear that patient care will be affected by the prospect of having to travel to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, where a larger, dedicated unit will be established to serve the region.

Concerns have also been raised that it could lead to other specialist services being transferred out of the county. The row also led to the departure of Peter Davies, chairman of the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust, who resigned his post in protest.

However, a report before this morning's meeting of the board of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust recommends the service is centralised in the best interest of patients.

It says the death rates after surgery at Treliske are "significantly higher" than in centralised units. It also states "there is not enough surgical expertise cover at Royal Cornwall Hospital to deliver a sustainable service".

The report, the result of a Government-instigated review, also argues the too few operations are carried out to deliver the best service.

"The current low workload of, on average, two new patients per week does not support a comprehensive approach to patient care as the team is not exposed to a wide spectrum of cases," it states.

"This will have an adverse effect on patient outcomes (chances of survival during surgery and cure) and the high mortality (death rates) and high level of significant morbidity (illness) are related to the low volumes of cases."

Professor Mike Richards, the Department of Health's national cancer director, "strongly advised" the review be carried out.

It was conducted by two of the country's leading upper gastrointestinal surgeons, Professor Mike Griffin and Mr Bill Allum, who spent three days with colleagues at the hospital.

A joint health overview and scrutiny committee is being formed between Cornwall County Council and the Isles of Scilly to demand full consultation on the proposals.

Ann James, chief executive of the primary care trust, said: "I have great respect for the local clinicians who have been providing this service but it is essential that the key recommendation to discontinue the service at the Royal Cornwall Hospital and centralise surgery is taken forward.

"I will look to have urgent discussions with the joint overview and scrutiny committee and colleagues within the Peninsula Cancer Network to examine the recommendations.

"The independent review clearly shows that a specialist centre ensures a higher volume of cases which increases the chance of survival and cure and that is what all patients from Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly deserve. I am very grateful to Professor Griffin and Mr Allum for their hard work in producing this report.

"We will share the recommendations with colleagues across the Peninsula Cancer Network and the Healthcare Commission to address the issues that have been raised.

"Immediate steps will be taken with the Royal Cornwall Hospital to integrate local services with specialist centres in Plymouth and Exeter which are compliant with national guidance as this will support patient care with immediate effect.

"We wanted to share this information as widely as possible as it will help to shape the planned consultation with local people.

"We are keen to make necessary clinical changes as smooth as possible for the patients and families involved including looking at what practical support can be offered around issues like transportation."

(c) 2008 Western Morning News, The Plymouth (UK). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.