Friday, December 8, 2023

Councillors throw out plans for longer journeys for cancer treatment

ANGRY Thurrock councillors have thrown out a proposal to move a high-tech medical scanner from Basildon Hospital to Southend.

Members of the council’s Health and Well-being Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on Tuesday (13 October) evening, had been asked to comment on NHS England’s plans as an urgent item.

The committee listened to NHS England representatives explain why they thought the plan to move the PET-CT (Positron Emission Tomography-Computed Tomography) scanner from its current temporary home would benefit local people.

But committee chair Cllr Graham Snell also invited representatives from NHS Thurrock CCG; Thurrock Healthwatch; and Dr Qaiser Malik, a consultant in radiology, at Basildon Hospital to give their opinion – all unanimously against the plan.

The committee also heard from the council’s Director of Public Health, Ian Wake, who said he believed the NHS England supporting documentation to be flawed and inaccurate.

The council’s cabinet member for health, Cllr Barbara Rice also spoke against the plan, saying it was “disrespectful” to the committee to expect them to make a decision at such short notice and with poorly presented evidence.

The NHS England team suggested there would be no or little difference in the numbers of people having to travel if the scanner was at Southend Hospital, it would speed up cancer diagnosis, the scanner would be available more often in the week, and the permanent base would be up and running in a month rather than a year.

Those speaking in opposition disputed each “reason”.

Speaking afterwards, Cllr Snell said: “I think the committee was angry that NHS England thought they could bounce us into making the decision they wanted.

“It was obvious that a move to Southend would mean longer trips, not only for Thurrock patients, but those from Basildon and we heard that Harlow patients are scanned there too.

“It was explained the scanner already worked three and sometime four days a week – not the two days NHS England said; the proposed move would ‘increase fragmentation of treatment’ and slow it down; and there was a base at Basildon that could be in use in three, not 12 months.

“Either NHS England hadn’t done their homework or they thought they could pull the wool over our eyes.

“Having heard from all sides, there was no way we were going to support the plan.”


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