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News Archive > General > Battle to keep cancer services in Cornwall

Battle to keep cancer services in Cornwall

By Warren Wilkins 17th January 2018

Battle to keep cancer services in Cornwall
Campaigners get their message across on cancer care in Cornwall.

CRUCIAL cancer services in Cornwall could be under threat if a Government scheme gets the go-ahead.

The NHS is consulting on a strategy that could see vital radiotherapy treatments moved away from the first class Sunrise Centre at Royal Cornwall Hospital to a larger hospital like Plymouth’s Derriford, Exeter’s Wonford or even Bristol.

The consultation forms part of a Government push to centralise radiotherapy services, which has been coupled with a £130 million investment in upgrading old radiotherapy equipment.
However, with its state-of-the-art equipment, The Sunrise Centre requires no upgrades, and the changes could result in its cutting-edge technology being under-utilised and potentially mothballed in the future.

Cornwall residents in need of vital cancer services could have to travel as far as Bristol in order to be treated if the Government plan goes ahead – a move that would immediately affect around 200 locals, according to Janet Shephard, former head of radiotherapy at Treliske and trustee of The Sunrise Appeal.

Janet said: “The networks are currently being based solely on patient numbers, with no consideration of the challenges that additional travel poses to a rural community.

“The NHS may offer accommodation, but the impact of being separated from your family, friends and support network is immeasurable.

“For a patient in West Cornwall, this could triple the distance they need to travel to receive treatment and, in summer, could result in a far greater increase in travel time. Radiotherapy is a daily regime over several weeks, and this change could have an immense impact on people’s energy levels, resilience and mental health.

“The NHS estimates that more than 1,000 patients will need to be treated in a different centre. We believe that as many as 200 of those patients could be Cornish, which is an appalling statistic for a policy that is being applied across the country.”

The radiotherapy services at Treliske have been improved over the last decade to include two TrueBeam linear accelerators and a dedicated CT scanner, both of which allow for the most advanced treatments.

“These improvements would not have been possible without the support and donations from the public, much of which has been led by The Sunrise Appeal, which has raised £3 million since 2000. Moreover, the centre attracts and retains the very best staff, including radiographers, physicists and currently eight consultants.”

The centralisation of services would result in a network that spans from Gloucestershire to Penzance, with the Royal Cornwall Hospital only allowed to treat less common cancers if it meets minimum case numbers (around 50 per year). This could result in radiotherapy treatment of a range of cancers, including brain tumours, being moved to a different hospital.

Janet continued: “We’ve been a charity for almost 20 years but now we need your support more than ever. This consultation period will close in a couple of weeks so we have less than three weeks to make a difference.”

Newquay MP Steve Double said: “I was very concerned to hear of NHS England’s consultation that could see some radiotherapy services be moved from Cornwall.

“This is a decision that would be made by NHS England rather than by the Government but there are a number of things I have done as MP for Mid-Cornwall to ensure the correct criteria are considered, as well as public opinion taken into account when it comes to making the decision.

“Since hearing about this consultation, I have written to both the CEO of the Royal Cornwall Hospital and the CEO of NHS England outlining my strong objections to any plans to downgrade the services available in Cornwall. I have also raised it in the debate in Parliament as well as writing to the Health Minister.

“Cornwall has unique challenges as a large and rural county. Currently the radiotherapy services provided at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, while not central to the whole of Cornwall, are still more than an hour’s journey by car for people living in communities in the far west of the county – even longer when the roads are busy in the summer season.

“The proposals that could see services moved to Plymouth or even Exeter would see vulnerable and ill people in need of regular intensive treatment having to endure round trips lasting many hours for their radiotherapy, on a daily basis for several weeks. This is simply unacceptable and could mean the difference between life and death for patients who would have no choice but to take these long and uncomfortable journeys when at their most vulnerable.”

“RCHT also has a relatively modern treatment centre, the Sunrise Centre, the existence of which is down to the generosity of the Cornish people, who to date have raised over £3 million since 2000, both towards the original cost of opening the building as well as additional services and facilities associated with running it since it opened.

“Moving any radiotherapy services away from Cornwall would be a disappointment to the Cornish community who have donated so much money over the last two decades and cannot, in any way, be justified.

“I will be meeting with Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt later this week to highlight these concerns to him, and along with my Cornish MP colleagues will continue to do all I can to ensure these vital services for Cornwall are safeguarded.”

“The consultation is ongoing until January 24 and I would encourage you to respond to it.”

The Sunrise Appeal is calling for people in Cornwall that has been affected by cancer to make their voice heard by emailing how the move would impact their lives to england.npoc-
cancer@nhs.net

By Warren Wilkins 17th January 2018

valerie ann mackenzie 18th January 2018 15:07
i have had to use this facility twice in the past 14 years only finishing my radiation and chemo late last year i would not have survived if had to travel 50 -100 miles per day as i was very ill my best friend and i had breast cancer together back in 2003 and raised a lot of money for sunrise sponsored swims walks and car boot sales sadly she did not survive but again on her death we again supported sunrise we are just a small amount compared to some but we feel we have a right in this decision and we feel sunrise should morally be in cornwall
Claire Bromley 20th January 2018 11:21
Isn´t it devastating enough that a patient gets told they have cancer and have to endure treatment. It would be horrendous to then ask them to travel long distances to other towns like Bristol or Exeter . Already feeling weak from the cancer and medication , a long journey and then a radiation session.... and then a long journey home ! This possibility must be stopped, and facilities kept in Cornwall. Why are we being punished for being so far down in the country , do people not value our lives like the rest of the country? Please Please !!!! Do not take facilities away from Truro. It is so cruel to ask patients to do this long journey. They feel unwell. They will have travel costs. Difficulty getting to appts. All this on top of their battle with cancer.
Barbara Walsh 24th January 2018 13:18
I receive Palliative Chemotherapy at Truro Sunrise Centre and I´d be devastated if I need to travel as far as Plymouth, Exeter, or Bristol for my treatment. I wouldn´t be able to cope practically, physically, or emotionally with the distance, so, unfortunately, I´d be forced to decline further treatment. Patients of Cornwall along with Family and Friends have fought hard to raise funds over the years for Treliske Hospital Sunrise Centre and here it must stay!
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