Still no progress on bringing new cancer services to Chichester

A&E, St Richard's Hospital''Picture by Louise Adams C140028-4 Chi St Richard's Hospital ENGSUS00120140113154157
A&E, St Richard's Hospital''Picture by Louise Adams C140028-4 Chi St Richard's Hospital ENGSUS00120140113154157

MPs in West Sussex can expect to receive letters from frustrated councillors about the ongoing fight to place a radiotherapy unit at St Richard’s Hospital, in Chichester.

The county is the only one in England not to have the equipment, known as Linacs, within its boundary, meaning patients face long and painful journeys to Brighton, Guildford and London for treatment.

At a meeting of the health and adult social care select committee (HASC) on Wednesday, members pointed out that the issue had been dragging on for more than 12 years and was now ‘urgent’.

Chairman Bryan Turner received a letter from Marianne Griffiths, chief executive of both the Western Sussex Hospitals and the Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals Trusts, sharing support for the St Richard’s option.

Dame Marianne added that they would be reviewing provision of cancer services across Chichester and Worthing ‘to determine whether there is a better configuration for cancer services across the whole trust’.

It was hoped the review would lead to a business case being submitted to NHS England for funding for St Richard’s.

There was frustration from a number of committee members, though.

Dr James Walsh (Lib Dem, Littlehampton East) said: “The letter doesn’t really move us forward. It restates the position we were in 18 months or two years ago.

“We’ve all known this, and the problem hasn’t been so much where the service is provided, it’s about how patients get to those services.

“What we need to make sure is we are focussed on the patients and making sure they don’t have to go from A to B to C.”

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Oliver Phillips, the trust’s planning and strategy director, said he shared members’ frustration, adding: “We are very, very keen as a trust to have a radiotherapy unit at St Richard’s Hospital.

“A review undertaken by the Surrey & Sussex Cancer Alliance clearly demonstrated that across the whole of Sussex that was the area that was most suffering.

“It’s not so much actually the people that live within a mile of here, it’s Littlehampton patients or Pulborough patients – that’s where the real difficulty is in travel.

“We’ve knocked on the door of NHS England a number of times on this. What we’re very keen to do now is put forward a proposal for our entire cancer services that we hope that they can get behind.

“We will be discussing that with patients and public.”

Mr Phillips estimated that the review should be completed by early 2020.

There was concern from Noel Atkins (Con, Durrington & Salvington) that reorganisations within the NHS meant the work would have to ‘start from square one again’.

Mr Phillips was unable to give assurances that this wouldn’t happen but did say that Dame Marianne had given her ‘absolute commitment to get this done’.

Anne Jones (Con, Burgess Hill East) said: “Can we from this committee write to our MPs to express our frustration and concern about this issue. With the increase in the numbers of people with cancer, I think it’s an urgent one.”