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Sunday, 26 October 2014

NHS Cumbria defends new radiotherapy unit decision

CUMBRIA’S primary care trust has defended a decision to build a radiotherapy unit in Kendal, despite calls for a service at Furness General Hospital.

The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust announced Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal as the preferred site for a new £12m unit in December last year.

The decision on the location of the radiotherapy centre was made by the Cumbria and Lancashire NHS Collaborative Commissioning Board, not the UHMBT.

Cancer patients in south Cumbria who need radiotherapy currently have to travel to Preston or Carlisle for the life-saving treatment. The new unit, which could be built within two years, would cut journey times for patients in South Cumbria.

NHS Cumbria said the commissioning board chose Kendal because its location meant it could serve a larger amount of cancer patients, including some from North Lancashire, than if it were built in Barrow.

A spokesman for NHS Cumbria said: “Kendal has been chosen by the Cumbria and Lancashire NHS Collaborative Commissioning Board as a preferred location for a new radiotherapy service due to its proximity to patients in both South Cumbria and North Lancashire, which it needs to serve in order to be viable and safe.

“Locating a radiotherapy service in Kendal will halve travel times for patients in Barrow who currently have to travel to Preston for the same treatment. This will have enormous benefits for cancer patients in Barrow and result in less travelling for patients and their families.”

This comes after county councillor Jim Hamezeian asked Cumbria County Council’s health and well-being scrutiny committee to consider the case for a unit in Barrow.

Cllr Hamezeian asked Cumbria County Council’s health and well-being scrutiny committee to look into the prospect of bringing radiotherapy to FGH.

He said: “In Barrow many cancer patients who are suffering from this dreadful illness have to travel to Rosemere Cancer Centre in Preston for radiotherapy. Barrow is geographically isolated and unique.

“There is one way in and one way out through the A590.

“I am not saying don’t build one in Kendal, I am happy for Kendal, but the case for a unit in Barrow is strong.

“This has been an ongoing problem for cancer patients in Barrow for years. The recent extreme weather conditions have made this case even stronger in that roads can easily become inaccessible, leaving the town isolated and people unable to access transport.

“The Health Improvement Strategy 2008 to 2010 for Barrow confirms that we have lower than average survival rates for some cancers.

“Mortality from some cancers is significantly higher than the average in men under 75 years of age.

“The trauma of this disease, is compounded by the arduous means of securing treatment for some people which involves travel over a considerable distance. This is a major issue for many affected and one I hope might be resolved.”

The health and well-being scrutiny committee said it is satisfied with the primary care trust’s reasons for choosing WGH but has agreed to monitor the progress of the build in Kendal.

Councillor Bill Wearing, chairman of the health and well-being scrutiny committee, said: “It is understandable that people in Barrow would rather have a service in Barrow .

“NHS Cumbria has stressed that this is not the kind of service which can be provided specifically for every local population and believe that the location of Kendal makes it more viable for a larger catchment population, while still being very substantially more local than Preston.

“The scrutiny committee will expect an update report later this year so that it can monitor the outcome of the planning work within the NHS to make this service more local and receive confirmation of the likely timescales for what will be a very significant development.”

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