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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Vow to fight for 'gold standard' cancer unit in Barrow

OUTRAGED families sent a clear message to a hospital trust that they will fight to protect their “gold standard”, and community-funded, oncology unit.

The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Barrow’s Furness General Hospital, has proposed relocating oncology and haematology inpatients from the oncology unit to a “dedicated area” on one of the hospital’s acute medical wards. The trust has said patient treatment won’t be affected.

During a heated public meeting former and present cancer patients, and their loved ones, said they feared for people with cancer getting infections on a ward with their weaker immune systems.

Around 300 people, at the Engineers Club, gave a standing ovation and rapturous applause to former nurse, and cancer
survivor, Jan Henry.

Mrs Henry said: “We’re getting the best care now, and don’t dare take it away.

“It’s an absolute travesty if you take this unit away, it’s the jewel in your crown, and your crown is tarnished at the moment.

“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. It’s a dedicated unit, away from the hustle and bustle and infection, nurses with vast knowledge, skills and professionalism, kindness and humanity. If you think this is the correct decision you’re being very short-sighted. You’re disbanding a gold
standard service, and we need to stop them.”

Liz Johnston, the retired oncology unit manager, said: “The dream was to get oncology, haematology and palliative care together, and educate a team of nurses to deal with patients physically and emotionally. That’s what we achieved, by changing things we are stepping back 20 years.”

Clare Coulston, a cancer patient, said: “I had oncology nurses talk to me for two hours at 3am because I was so down. You can’t get that on any other ward. I understand you have to save money, but this unit is so important for more reasons than just money.”

Panel members said discussions between the trust, partner groups and the community has to be transparent, with more talks before announcements.

Juliet Walters, the trust’s chief operating officer, and George Nasmyth, medical director, said any changes would be made on clinical grounds, and risk assessments have to be shared with the commissioner to
ensure there is no adversely affected care.

Mrs Walters said: “This is not a closure of beds, it’s not an attempt to close down the oncology unit.

“Our mission is to have safe, sustainable and efficient services. We want to make a success of the hospital. We have some tough decisions to make and the discussions will continue. We will work with whatever groups we need to.”

The trust needs to find £30m by April next year and needs to be more cost-effective.

Mrs Walters and Mr Nasmyth said there is an increased demand for daycare chemotherapy and a potential way to
manage that effectively would be using the existing inpatient facility on the oncology unit to provide the extra capacity.

Mr Nasmyth said: “This meeting has a lot of impact, we have to go away and make sure whatever solutions we come up with meet the requirements that you expect from us.”

Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock, who chaired the meeting, said Barrow needed first-class cancer care, and said: “You’ve shown you have lived through, and are living through so much, your voice has to be listened to. The expertise in this room are extraordinary. You’ve done the town and your loved ones proud.”

 

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