BHRUT officers addressed the Committee and stated that they wished to improve outcomes for patients and sought to develop a world class cancer centre based in Romford. The 62-day target for cancer treatment had now been met by the Trust for 17 months in a row and Queen’s Hospital now offered state of the art radiotherapy services. Change had been driven by clinical need of the rising population in North East London.
King George Hospital was unable to offer as good cancer care as Queen’s and there not any radiotherapy available at King George. Queen’s Hospital offered a dedicated teenage cancer unit and could also cater better for patients with disabilities. Queen’s also offered longer opening hours for its services including Saturdays as well as the ability to run patient trials for cancer treatments.
Patient and staff safety was a challenge at King George as well as staffing shortfalls which were also an issue nationally. Two vacancies had recently been recruited to with another two currenrly being interviewed for. Chemotherapy services had moved from King George to Queen’s which had allowed the opening of a Living With Cancer Hub at King George in December 2017. This had been attended by 60 people thus far (27% from Redbridge) and had received very positive feedback from service users.
It was confirmed that all King George chemotherapy patients had transferred successfully to the Sunflowers Suite at Queen’s and patient transport was available if required.
BHRUT officers accepted that they should communicate more with all stakeholders and agreed that they would work with Healthwatch on the changes. A dedicated Patient Partner was also available to give the patient’s viewpoint.
A Member from Redbridge stated that legal advice he had received was that the services should be subject to consultation and felt that BHRUT or the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) should therefore consult on this matter. The Member felt that this had been agreed at the Committee’s previous meeting and that Healthwatch should also be involved in any consultation.
Officers from BHRUT added that staff shortages had made it untenable to stay at King George and agreed with a Member’s statement that it would be for the CCGs to lead on any consultation. The Trust was happy to work with Healthwatch and accepted that Healthwatch did not necessarily endorse the service changes.
Members accepted that patient safety be a priority but also raised the point it was not credible that the staffing issues should arise so quickly after the last meeting had taken place and that the behaviour of BHRUT around the issue may not have been befitting of a partnership. A representative of Healthwatch Redbridge confirmed the organisation been involved in the engagement work but also felt that the closure of the service at King George had been very quick. It was planned that Healthwatch engagement work with patients would commence by March 2019. BHRUT supported the involvement of Healthwatch but felt that full public consultation was not the right approach and that cost issues would also be involved.
Officers confirmed that transport would be offered to patients who became unwell during the course of their treatment. It was emphasised that the Cedar Centre was not closing and continue to offer post-treatment support to cancer patients – a very important area. Members felt however that this could not be compared with the chemotherapy service and, whilst the scope of consultation could be discussed, this should be agreed in principle. Members also felt that there had been a fault in the process and that the extra demand on services at Queen’s was also a concern.
Trust officers responded that the opening of the chemotherapy unit at Queen’s for longer hours and on Saturdays meant that it would be able to cope with the additional demand. It was possible that the unit would open 7 days per week in the future.
The Joint Committee AGREED unanimously (with one abstention) that the clerk should draft a letter requesting the CCGs organise consultation of some kind on the recent changes to cancer services.