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June 26, 2010

South West cancer service reconfigurations “on the fly”
Filed under: FOI Balls — Dr. Phil @ 6:13 am

Cornish people who campaigned against imposition of Cancer Improving Outcomes Guidance (IOG) without public consultation may well wonder why they appear to have been treated differently to Somerset people. Cornwall lost its Upper GI Cancer Surgery to Devon, despite John Watkinson, former Chief Executive of the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT), obtaining legal advice indicating that to transfer the surgery without public consultation could be unlawful. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley recently ordered an inquiry into the circumstances leading to Mr Watkinson’s dismissal by the RCHT, including whether it was motivated by his position on the Upper GI transfer.

However in Somerset, despite Taunton not serving a sufficiently large population to be IOG compliant, a Freedom of Information response confirmed that “the establishment of Taunton as a specialist cancer centre for gynaecology was approved by the National Cancer Action Team, the Strategic Health Authority and the Avon, Somerset and Wiltshire Cancer Services (ASWCS)Network. The rural nature of Somerset as a county and its distance from Bristol was a strong influence on this decision”

Campaigners involved in an NHS Bath & North East Somerset (BaNES) led controversial review on reconfiguration of Bristol/Bath Gynaecological Cancer Surgery questioned why Taunton was allowed to be an IOG exception. One was told by a management consultant employed by the NHS to “forget Taunton”.

When quizzed at a July Steering Group 2009 meeting, NHS BaNES’ official transcript of the meeting records its former review Chair, Dr Kieran Morgan saying “Yes, well we took the view…….. NHS BANES took the view that that was Taunton and this is here. Whatever the reason for taking that decision is in the past and isn’t really anything to do with us”

The Steering Group was unable to agree whether the service should be centralised at Bath or Bristol. Later in the transcript, the former Medical Director of the Royal United Hospital, Bath, is recorded saying to Dr Morgan “you set up a process, you have reached the end of that process and beyond that we are now making up a series of things on the fly”

According to NHS BaNES, the Bristol/Bath Gynae. Review is now on hold following “a new policy direction from the Secretary of State for Health requesting PCTs to review health service reconfigurations”. Presumably to see whether local people have been properly consulted or had change foisted on them “on the fly”.