Western Sussex Hospitals Trust in talks over borrowed radiotherapy machines

CANCER patients in the Observer area could be treated in the county if new state-of-the-art machines are installed in Worthing.

At the moment, those needing radiotherapy treatment in Chichester, Midhurst or Bognor Regis have to travel to Brighton or Southampton.

But they may not need to cover such a distance if plans to bring linear accelerators, or linacs for short, to the seaside town go ahead.

The Western Sussex Hospitals Trust, which runs Worthing Hospital, hopes to work closely with its neighbour, the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust (BSUH), which owns the hefty radiotherapy machines in a bid to make the lives of hundreds of patients much easier.

John Gooderham, vice chair of the West Sussex LINk stewardship group, said there hadn’t been any radiotherapy facilities in the county since the small unit at the King Edward VII Hospital in Midhurst was closed.

“With a population of 500,000 served by this trust, there should be also two linacs,” he told a meeting of the board in Worthing.

“There seems to be an agreement that these machines are to be sited here by 2013 but that seems to have been happening for an awfully long time without actually happening.

“Eleven years ago the NHS Cancer Plan was published and said that places like West Sussex clearly didn’t have the radiotherapy facilities that they need.

“Eleven years is a long time to wait to treat cancer patients in the county.”

Directors of the trust, which also runs St Richard’s in Chichester and Southlands in Shoreham, said they were equally keen for the machines to be brought to Worthing - but they were waiting on a response from their counterparts.

“We as a trust aren’t a cancer centre and therefore don’t actually run radiotherapy services,” said chief executive Marianne Griffiths.

“As a board we completely agree with the view to ensure that our patients have good access and don’t have to travel numerous miles, particularly when they are feeling ill.

“We have already given BSUH all the assurances we can - we actively want to be a good partner with them.”

The Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust did not respond to the Observer’s request for information.