Campaigning to keep cancer services in Cornwall

I am sure that we were not the only family toasting absent friends on Christmas Day. Sadly, some time ago my mum died of cancer. I know how important access to high quality cancer services are to families living in the Duchy. I remember the strain on my mum and dad, having to travel to Plymouth for some of her radiotherapy treatment. My father starts radiotherapy at Treliske in January.

NHS England are currently consulting on a new model for radiotherapy services in England. The consultation is seeking feedback on a new specification for adult radiotherapy services.

Radiotherapy is a core part of modern cancer treatment. It can cure cancers, can assist in alleviating symptoms and is cost effective. It is second only to surgery in its effectiveness in treating cancer and around 40% of patients who are cured receive radiotherapy as part of or the whole of their treatment. The development of the proposed service specification sits alongside NHS England’s £130 million investment in radiotherapy equipment which was announced last year.

The specification has been developed by talking to doctors, nurses, radiographers and public and patient engagement groups and was informed by a period of stakeholder engagement in 2016. The aim of the specification is to encourage radiotherapy providers to work together in Networks to concentrate expertise and improve pathways for patients requiring radical radiotherapy for the less common and rarer cancers. This will help to increase access to more innovative radiotherapy treatments, increase clinical trial recruitment and make sure radiotherapy equipment is fully utilised. There is no intention to reduce the number of radiotherapy providers, nor is it considered to be a likely outcome of these proposals.

NHS England is keen to receive feedback and answer your questions on the proposals through the consultation. You might want to read the Radiotherapy Service Specification and Consultation Guide and Impact Assessment.

The consultation ends on 24 January 2018. You can email: or write to:   Radiotherapy Consultation, NHS England, Floor 3B, Skipton House, 80 London Road, London, SE1 6LH.

I have been in touch with a number of constituents who are worried about the possibility of some services moving from Cornwall to Plymouth or Exeter in Devon.

I share their concerns and have written to NHS England reminding them of Cornwall’s special geography. I appreciate that centres of excellence based in urban areas with large populations can achieve better outcomes for patients, especially rare conditions. However, if people have to make long journeys on a daily basis over a many weeks for their treatment, I am concerned that the improved patient outcomes that motivate NHS England to centralise services won’t be realised. Long and difficult journeys might prevent people from accessing treatment. Considerable extra journey times would make combining caring with employment responsibilities more challenging too. There would also be considerable extra patient transport costs for individuals, their families and the NHS.

It can be a long journey from Penzance to Truro, let alone Plymouth.

First published in the West Briton 28/12/17