One Cornish institution came to the defence of another today as the BBC Laurence Reed show Lunchtime with Laurence had ‘it’s busiest day ever’, as Cornish people from Launceston to Land’s End rang in about the NHS proposal that could mean staff and vital equipment for cancer treatment moved from the Sunrise Centre in Truro to Plymouth or even further afield.
The Sunrise Centre was funded in large part by a campaign supported heavily by BBC Radio Cornwall 15 years ago, and Laurence Reed was right at the heart of that. Thousands of people in Cornwall jumped out of aeroplanes, baked cakes, ran a mile or shaved their head so that Cornwall could have some of the very best cancer treatment in the country. Legacies have been left in honour of the amazing dedication of staff and volunteers as the last wish of a dying patient. For Laurence Reed, this was personal.
The Sunrise Centre is the oncology (cancer) centre covering the whole of Cornwall. It is based at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro and opened in 2002. Facilities include an out patient unit with eight clinical rooms and Lowen ward is a specialist oncology/haematology ward, with 19 beds, including seven side rooms. The ward is staffed by trained nurses, and doctors cover the ward at all times.
Although the centre itself is not under any threat of closure, the NHS is considering moving staff and vital equipment to Plymouth or even further afield, so create ‘hubs of excellence’. It would mean that some residents of Cornwall making 100+ mile daily round trips to receive treatment.
Laurence Reed’s show was almost overwhelmed by a wave of righteous indignation that something that the people of Cornwall consider their own could be taken away from them. Laurence said he’d probably get in trouble for not being impartial but he didn’t care and vowed to carry on and if necessary to lead a mass movement to stop the plans. #ReedsRebellion was on.
“How dare they?” Laurence asked.
The NHS ‘consultation’ on the subject has been extended to 24th January and callers repeatedly pleaded with listeners to go onto the website to add their views. That was something listeners obviously did as the survey website was crashing this afternoon.
If the famous Spirit of Cornwall can be raised for rugby or football, suggested Laurence and his callers, then why can’t 20,000 Cornishmen rally to save a Cornish institution that they have almost built with their own hands?
“You won’t need 20,000” said one caller “You only need 19,999 cause you have already got me”
“NHS England would like to get more views on these proposals”
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, securing greater value for money. There is no intention to reduce the number of radiotherapy providers, nor is it considered to be a likely outcome of these proposals.
#ReedsRebellion continued as Laurence demanded that the Cornish MPs make a commitment to get together and knock on Jeremy Hunt’s door. This week.
The unprecedented level of calls to the show, included Steve Double MP who was corralled live on air into just such a commitment to talk to the Health secretary personally, at some point this week.
The show’s producer David Dixon told us “That was the busiest show ever- it was very very manic. Never had that many of calls ever, certainly not since I’ve been producing the show, and the consensus in the office is it was busiest show ever”
Steve Double has since released a statement as we asked him to confirm the promise he made live on the show.
He said “I was very concerned to hear of NHS England’s consultation that could see some radiotherapy services be moved from Cornwall.
The proposals that could see services moved to Plymouth or even Exeter, would see vulnerable and ill people in need of regular intensive treatment have to endure round trips lasting many hours for their radiotherapy, on a daily basis for several weeks. This is simply unacceptable and could mean the difference between life and death for patients who have would no choice but to take these long and uncomfortable journeys when at their most vulnerable.
“RCHT also has a relatively modern treatment centre, the Sunrise Centre, the existence of which is down to the generosity of the Cornish people, who to date have raised over £3 million since 2000, both towards the original cost of opening the building as well as additional services and facilities associated with running it since it opened. Moving any radiotherapy services away from Cornwall would be a disappointment to the Cornish community who have donated so much money over the last two decades and cannot, in any way be justified.
This is a decision that would be made by NHS England rather than by the Government.
I will be meeting with Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt later this week to highlight these concerns to him, and along with my Cornish MP colleagues will continue to do all I can to ensure these vital services for Cornwall are safeguarded.”
“The consultation is ongoing until 24 January. I would encourage you to respond to it”
Scott Mann has in the last week published a letter he has sent to the Chief Executive of the NHS “to make him aware of our concerns”.
Derek Thomas previously has said he will raise concerns about the the plans and how they could affect cancer patients in Cornwall with NHS England and this week used his Cornishman column to say said “I’m assured by NHS England and I quote ‘There is no intention to reduce the number of radiotherapy providers, nor is it considered to be a likely outcome of these proposals'”.
The question was raised on the show about how to feed into the ‘consultation’ if you are not on the internet, or have limited access.
Steve Double’s office provided this info:
By email: email@example.com
Or in writing to: Radiotherapy Consultation, NHS England, Floor 3B, Skipton House, 80 London Road, London, SE1 6LH.