Cancer patients’ 120 mile round trip

Norfolk and Suffolk patients needing surgery for cancer of the pancreas will now face a 125-mile round trip to Cambridge.

Health bosses say moving all pancreatic cancer surgery to Addenbrooke’s Hospital will improve patients’ survival by giving them the benefit of specialised expertise.

The East of England Specialised Commissioning Group (SCG), which has made the changes, said none of the previous specialist teams in Cambridge, Ipswich and Norwich served a large enough population to enable them to develop and maintain the advanced expertise needed for such a rare cancer.

However, concerns have been raised that transport to and from Addenbrooke’s will prove timely and expensive for patients. Patients will still continue to be seen at their local hospitals for chemotherapy and other non-surgical treatments.

Rory Harvey, medical director for the Anglia Cancer Network, said: “Last year we consulted widely over the proposed changes in services. The reason behind the changes was the generally poor outcomes for this type of cancer and the evidence that the likelihood of cure was increased by fewer surgeons performing more operations.”

When the proposals were first announced almost two years ago, they were criticised by the N&N’s Simon Wemyss-Holden, cancer lead director and a specialist in pancreatic cancer. He said: “It is crazy to think about moving services from either place based on population and not on outcomes. Both Addenbrooke’s and the N&N offer a fantastic service. Norfolk patients have said if they had to be treated at Addenbrooke’s they would have gone without surgery and had local chemotherapy instead which would have meant worse outcomes.”

Tony Cowles, a member of health watchdog Norfolk LINk, said: “It is not always purely about the actual service or quality of care, consideration must also be given to the transport, after-care and follow- up clinics that patients also need.”

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A spokesman for the N&N said: “Ourselves and Addenbrooke’s have a joint multi-disciplinary pancreatic cancer team that video-conferences every Monday to discuss patients and their treatment plans. Most of the care is delivered locally and relatively few pancreatic cancer patients undergo surgery but where that is required it happens at Cambridge.”

Norfolk LINk’s free phone number is 0800 652 4158 and it can be contacted by email at info@norfolklink.org.uk