My name is Janet Shephard. I am a trustee of the Sunrise Appeal and I worked as Head of Radiotherapy in Cornwall for many years before I retired.
I’m writing this blog because the NHS is currently asking for people’s input on a strategy that could result in vital Radiotherapy Cancer Treatments being moved from Treliske to a larger hospital, potentially as far as Bristol.
The oncology department at Treliske, The Sunrise Centre, is a cutting edge service that has built a national reputation, attracting and retaining the best staff including radiographers, physicists and 8 consultants. This department was made possible by funding from various sources, including £500,000 from the Sunrise Appeal. Since then £1.5 million Of Appeal funding has been used to support new and innovative projects, provide new equipment and fund significant upgrades to radiotherapy treatment machines.
The changes that NHS England are proposing risks turning the clock back to a time when some patients had to travel out of county for lifesaving treatment. As Head of Radiotherapy I worked with those patients. I saw the impact travelling had on their mental and physical health and resilience; some patients did a 5 hour round trips every week day for several weeks – at best they were exhausted and at worst they had to be admitted to hospital, as the side effects robbed them of their energy and independence. I also worked with patients who opted to stay in the hostel in Plymouth, who were isolated from their family, friends and support network. The impact on relationships of that separation often lasted long after the treatment was finished.
Perhaps worst of all, I worked with patients who refused to travel, and I believe that is once again a real possibility, especially if the treatment centre is in Exeter or Bristol.
The NHS strategy is based on case numbers – hospitals will only be treating certain types of cancer if they have at least 50 cases per year. This could result in treatment for brain tumours, stomach and gynaecological cancer treatment being moved to another hospital. The NHS believes that only 1100 patients a year will have to travel further than they currently do for treatment. At the Sunrise Appeal we calculate that possibly 200 of those patients will be Cornish. Moreover, The Sunrise Centre, which we’ve all worked so hard to build, would once again become a satellite centre, with all the downward implications for recruitment and retention of excellent staff.
I totally support the NHS’ goal to improve service standards; however, this cannot be at the expense of the health and wellbeing of Cornish patients. The Sunrise Centre offers world class equipment and treatment to all of its patients, and I believe it would be wrong to force patients with certain types of cancer to travel further for no proven benefit.
If you feel as passionately as I do, there is still time for you to make a difference
1) You can email: firstname.lastname@example.org to express your concerns
2) You can take part in the online survey at https://www.engage.england.nhs.uk/consultation/radiotherapy-service-specification-consultation/consultation/
3) NHS England is also hosting a webinars on 17 January. They will allow people to ask questions direct and will take place on/ can be accessed at: Wednesday, 17 January 2018 – 3.00pm – 4.30pm
If you want to keep up to date with our campaign please like our Facebook page