Cancer patients could be forced to travel 40 miles for surgery - two months after being told they would not have to

PUBLISHED: 10:02 13 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:26 13 November 2018

Queen Elizabeth Hospital chief executive Jon Green. Photo: QEH

Queen Elizabeth Hospital chief executive Jon Green. Photo: QEH


Almost two months after patients at a west Norfolk hospital were reassured they would not have to travel to Norwich for surgery, including that for cancer, a leaked memo has revealed a lack of staff may force the move.

Cancer patients at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital may have to travel to Norwich. Photo: QEHCancer patients at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital may have to travel to Norwich. Photo: QEH

The proposals was first put forward in September, after the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King’s Lynn was judged as inadequate.

Regulator NHS Improvement (NHSI) suggested closing a ward and suspending planned surgery but this was branded a “travesty and disaster” and the hospital board eventually decided to hire more temporary nurses to avoid closing beds.

MORE: Proposals to close hospital ward and suspend planned surgery branded a ‘travesty and disaster’

But a leaked memo has now revealed the plans may go ahead after all, with patients being sent 40 miles to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), which is also in special measures.

The memo said that despite the September decision the hospital did not anticipate having enough capacity because the number of nurses recruited had been less than expected.

Unison regional organiser Peter Passingham. Photo: UnisonUnison regional organiser Peter Passingham. Photo: Unison

Instead, over winter, QEH cancer patients would be sent to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) and into the space freed up by the NNUH moving its gasterenterology beds into the new Quadram Institute.

The memo said: “Details are still being worked out but this would most likely involve our surgical teams travelling to perform operations at the N&N.”

QEH chief executive Jon Green said closing a ward and moving surgery to the NNUH was just one option on the table.

But Unison regional organiser Peter Passingham said: “The Queen Elizabeth’s plans to send its cancer patients 40 miles away to get the surgery they need would be a body blow to the people of west Norfolk.

MORE: Queen Elizabeth Hospital will hire more temporary nurses in bid to avoid closing beds and cancelling operations

“Moving patients and staff across the county for elective surgery means already overburdened health workers adding hours of travel onto their days to perform surgery on patients moved miles from their friends and family when they most need support. It’s simply not right.

“Instead of consulting staff about these damaging proposals, QEH bosses have put 70 workers on notice that they may have to spend the winter travelling across the county to do their jobs.

“We urge the board to reject these plans but we recognise that the blame for this crisis lies in Westminster.

“The people of west Norfolk deserve better than this.”

Mr Green said: “This is just one of the proposals we are investigating to enable us to continue with as much of our elective programme as possible over the winter period while at the same time ensuring safe care for both our emergency and elective patients. As a paper will be going to our November Board meeting it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

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