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One of first NHS cancer patients to be treated at private hospital praises ‘phenomenal’ staff

PUBLISHED: 11:49 27 April 2020 | UPDATED: 12:52 27 April 2020

Gary Brown, with wife Kate and children Owen, Zach and Evie. Photo: Brown family

Gary Brown, with wife Kate and children Owen, Zach and Evie. Photo: Brown family

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One of the first cancer patients treated at a Norwich private hospital as part of measures to ease pressure on the NHS has praised “phenomenal” health workers.

The letter written by Gary Brown's children to the staff who treated him. Photo: Brown familyThe letter written by Gary Brown's children to the staff who treated him. Photo: Brown family

With hospitals coping with increased demand amid the coronavirus pandemic, treatment and operations for conditions including cancer have, in some places, been cancelled or rearranged.

But under an agreement signed between the independent health sector and the NHS, staff, equipment and facilities are being shared to alleviate pressure.

Locally, it has seen the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) and Spire Norwich join forces, with the NNUH’s entire chemotherapy service transferred to Spire and roughly 35 to 40 urgent operations carried out per week.

Among the first patients to be treated was Gary Brown, from Dereham, who, in mid-April, had surgery to remove a kidney after being diagnosed with the rare transitional cell cancer (TCC) of the kidney.

Gary Brown, who was treated at the Spire Norwich hospital. Photo: Brown familyGary Brown, who was treated at the Spire Norwich hospital. Photo: Brown family

Mr Brown had initially rushed to A&E in January with extreme pain and having passed blood. Tests, a biopsy and scans later, he was diagnosed with stage three cancer at the start of April.

“The hardest thing for me is that I run my own business,” he said. “Having cancer, Covid-19 happening and worrying about the business, it was a lot. I thought it was a simple low grade cancer so when they said it was serious my jaw hit the floor.”

On April 14, as the health service grappled with the pandemic’s tightening grip, kitchen fitter Mr Brown was asked to attend hospital, two days before his operation to make time for coronavirus testing.

“I got a bag together, my wife took me to hospital and then you’re on your own,” he said. “You are fully isolated. I was given a Covid-19 test which was negative, and had the three to 3.5-hour operation.”

He said doctors were pleased with the outcome, and that, once had he had recovered, there would be further tests and scans down the line. And he was keen to praise healthcare staff.

“They are phenomenal,” he said, “and it wasn’t just Spire staff, both were there. They were amazing, particularly considering everything that’s happening - anyone else going through the same situation don’t be worried, because you are in safe hands.”

The 48-year-old said his three children, Owen, Zach and Evie, had given a hamper and written a thank you letter to staff, which has been put up in the hospital.

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