Health Care

Cancer patients face NHS treatment cuts and delays

Cancer patients face NHS treatment cuts and delays”

The hospital's head of chemotherapy, Andrew Weaver, reportedly admitted the desperate situation in an internal memo to staff - saying the chemo unit is struggling to cope with the huge shortfall in nurses.

But in a statement, the trust acknowledged that while there is a staffing issue no decisions have been made to make changes to treatment.

It is set out in an email from Dr Andrew Weaver, a consultant oncologist and the Oxford hospital's chemotherapy lead, to fellow cancer specialists there.

Dr Weaver is head of chemotherapy at the Oxford University Hospital Trust, wrote in the memo that "Currently we are down approximately 40% on the establishment of nurses on DTU and as a outcome we are having to delay chemotherapy patients' starting times to 4 weeks".

A spokesman for the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust denied any changes to treatment, adding that any changes to treatment would also need to comply with national guidance and evidence from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Liz McAnulty, chairwoman of the Patients Association, told the paper: "It is horrifying to hear of an NHS hospital reducing chemotherapy treatment because it lacks the staff to administer it".

'We have not made any decisions to delay the start of chemotherapy treatment or to reduce the number of cycles of chemotherapy treatment which patients with cancer receive. No such change has been agreed by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

According to The Times, Dr Weaver said: "Currently we are down approximately 40 per cent on the establishment of nurses on DTU [day treatment unit] and as a outcome we are having to delay chemotherapy patients' starting times to four weeks".

"Specific initiatives within our chemotherapy service include weekly shortlisting and interviewing of clinical staff, as well as rapid access to chemotherapy education and training for newly recruited staff".

The alleged proposal is apparently due to staff shortages, and could affect patients who are terminally ill.

A spokesperson from OUH reassured patients no changes have been made nor would they without full consultation.

"Again, what (NHS England chief) Simon Stevens has said is happening in the NHS in relation to this is, over the past three years, highest cancer survival rates ever".

Sufferers at Churchill Hospital in Oxford - which treats up to 20,000 across the region - are facing weeks of delays, while terminally ill patients may see their treatment slashed.

Labour MP Ms Berger said: "The Health Secretary said that the Government wanted to be the best in the world for cancer diagnosis, treatment and care".

"Immediate action needs to be taken by the Government to deal with this, otherwise problems like the one at Oxford will become more widespread and more severe".

An additional 150,000 people are expected to have cancer diagnosed annually by 2035. "This issue will not go away without decisive action".

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