Cornwall to Devon cancer surgery move backed by review

Surgery. Pic: EyeWire
Image caption About 20 people a year in Cornwall have upper gastro-intestinal cancer surgery

A controversial transfer of cancer surgery from Cornwall to a Devon hospital has been approved by an independent review.

Surgery was moved from Truro's Royal Cornwall Hospital to Derriford Hospital, in Plymouth, in January.

The Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) said this was in patients' best interests as it would ensure the highest quality of care.

The move was also backed by Secretary of State Andrew Lansley.

Opponents said some patients would have a three-hour journey for treatment.

About 20 people a year in Cornwall have the surgery for upper gastro-intestinal cancer.

'Closer' care

The IRP, the independent expert on NHS service change in England, said a single site at Derriford ensured patients had access to a range of clinical expertise that could deliver the highest quality care.

However, its report also said more should be done to bring other elements of care closer to patients' homes.

The plans to move the surgery were approved by Cornwall Council's health overview and scrutiny committee in April 2009.

It followed advice by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust (PCT) that the move would improve survival rates.

The proposal was fiercely opposed by some patient groups and doctors who said a public consultation should have been held.

The PCT said it welcomed the IRP's findings.

Cornwall Council's health scrutiny committee said it was satisfied that a full and thorough review had been carried out.

Whistle-blower dismissed

Earlier this week, a hospitals chief who was unfairly dismissed over the move was awarded nearly £70,000 compensation.

John Watkinson was sacked in 2009 as chief executive of the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT).

An industrial tribunal in Exeter ruled in May his sacking was "substantively unfair" because he was about to blow the whistle on legal advice suggesting the NHS should have held a public consultation before moving the services to Plymouth.

Although the RCHT admitted it unfairly dismissed Mr Watkinson, it is appealing against the ruling that he was a whistle-blower.

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