Concern over loss of liver cancer surgery speciality at the N&N

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital at Colney.

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital at Colney. - Credit: Evening News © 2009

Concerns have been raised about the longer distances liver cancer patients in Norfolk and Suffolk will have to travel under plans to reduce the number of specialist surgery centres in the region.

NHS chiefs announced last year that the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital had lost out to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge as the preferred location for liver resection services in East Anglia.

Both hospitals currently carry out the specialist surgery. However, the liver metastases surgical resection services should serve a population of at least two million people, say officials from NHS England, who are planning to reduce the number of centres from two to one.

Members of the Norfolk Health and Wellbeing Service yesterday spoke of their concern at the extra miles patients would have to travel, if the service ended at the N&N.

NHS bosses said that where other specialist surgeries had been centralised, outcomes for patients had been improved. The N&N carries out about 25 liver resections a year and the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust does about 45 resections a year.

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Joyce Hopwood, a member of the health and wellbeing board, said she wanted to see more transport provision in place to assist patients from Norfolk and Suffolk who needed to travel to Addenbrooke's.

'Most of the patients will be older people who will find travel more difficult. It really makes a great difference if people are anxious and worried about transport in addition to everything else,' she said.

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A special meeting of the Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk Joint Health Scrutiny committee was established to review the proposals by NHS England with councillors calling on two surgical sites to be retained, under the management of a single specialist team.

Since 2002, the N&N has carried out 241 liver resection procedures with a mortality rate of 0.8pc and Addenbrooke's performed 541 surgeries with a mortality rate of 0.7pc.

Tracy Dowling, director of operations and delivery at the East Anglia team of NHS England, said: 'It is difficult when there is a need to centralise and we are at the very tail end of implementing this. It does require very specialist and focused support. Patients that have to travel to access that expertise need to be supported in terms of travel.'

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