Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Cancer network team cuts nonsensical, say campaigners

Cancer network team cuts nonsensical, say campaigners: Nine staff being made redundant and remaining three merged with another clinical network in Midlands
A team of specialist staff who help doctors improve cancer care is being scrapped as a result of the coalition's NHS overhaul, in a move condemned by cancer campaigners as "devastating" and "nonsensical".
The Greater Midlands cancer network team will stop operating as a back-up unit to doctors specialising in the disease after Wednesday because nine of its 12 staff are being made redundant as a result of NHS primary care trusts (PCTs) preparing for their own abolition next March.

The team's remaining three staff are being merged with the area's clinical network specialising in strokes and heart problems.
John Baron, the Conservative MP who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on cancer, said he feared the move could damage patient care and lead to vital knowledge about cancer services being lost, and that other of the NHS's 28 cancer networks in England could be seriously debilitated by cuts.
"I'm concerned, not just about this particular care but about the expertise that's being lost from cancer services up and down the country. We hope that there aren't more cases like this, but there can be no denying that we are losing cancer expertise and that cancer patients will suffer as a result," Baron said.
He has raised concerns about cancer networks' future funding and staffing on behalf of the cross-party group directly with Sir David Nicholson, the NHS chief executive. "He accepts that there's an issue here and he's gone away to look at it," Baron said.
Networks have been widely lauded by ministers and NHS leaders but face an uncertain future because of the new NHS structures starting next April.
The Greater Midlands cancer network team of managers and administrative staff, funded by Wolverhampton PCT since 2006, has worked to help doctors drive up the quality of cancer care in hospitals, for example by introducing the latest forms of surgery or improving patients' experience while they fight the disease.
Mike Hobday, director of policy and research at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "The abolition of the Greater Midlands cancer network team is a devastating blow to staff and to the patients it served. Cancer networks provide valuable specialist knowledge and personnel – it's nonsensical to get rid of them. We're deeply concerned that this could be the first of many networks to fall victim to the government's NHS shake-up."
The Black Country PCT cluster, which includes Wolverhampton PCT, said the network's doctors would continue their work as normal, despite the loss of their dedicated support team.
"We can reassure cancer patients and their carers that safety and quality of services remains a priority and will not be adversely affected by any of the changes currently taking place with regard to cancer networks locally," it said.
The network was not disappearing or closing but "merging" with clinical networks working with other medical conditions, before the NHS commissioning board sets up new strategic clinical networks that will cover a range of areas of care including cancer, though with fewer staff. "The clinical leaders of the network are continuing in those roles while the new network is set up," it added.
Prof Mike Richards, the government's former cancer tsar who is now the commissioning board's director for reducing premature mortality, said: "I value very highly the important work currently being done by cancer and cardiovascular networks which enable doctors and nurses to share insight and advice for patient treatment. That is why the NHS commissioning board is building on this experience and the skills of people active in these networks to create more networks, covering maternity and children's services, mental health, dementia and neurological conditions, alongside those for cancer and cardiovascular disease."
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said it and the board were "committed to the future of clinical networks in the NHS. They have delivered real benefits for patients and will be retained and developed in the future."
This month the Guardian reported fears among doctors and health charities that the new strategic clinical networks would have too few staff and funding to continue the full range of work already done. The Guardian

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