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Specialist urology cancer surgery review: A message from Sue Hardy, chief executive

10 April 2015

Health Care

There has been much publicity this week surrounding the provision of cancer services at Southend University Hospital, and I would like to clarify exactly what is happening at the moment and allay the fear and distress that this coverage may have caused to our patients.

Firstly let me reassure everyone that our cancer services are safe and not under threat.  The service that is under review is specialist urology cancer surgery, that is complex open or keyhole operations on the kidneys, bladder or prostate as part of a patient's treatment for urological cancers.  This specialist surgery affects a small proportion of the patients who receive treatment for urological cancers at Southend Hospital. 

The recent scrutiny has arisen from a review to see if services in Essex meet NICE guidelines.  NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recommends that hospitals that provide specialist urology care should have a minimum catchment of one million people.  

Both Southend and Colchester hospitals provide specialist urology cancer surgery and, as part of an Essex review, the Specialist Commissioning Team (SCT) at NHS England identified that neither hospital has the recommended million people in their individual areas.  For this reason the SCT is now reviewing how specialist urology cancer surgery services are provided for patients across the whole of Essex. 

NICE recommendations are grounded in research and there is clear evidence that specialist centres of care provide better outcomes for patients treated there, which is why different hospitals in Essex already have specialist centres for cancer, heart problems and burns, for example. 

I am working with our partners at the local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to develop our proposals to keep the specialist urology cancer surgery service right here at Southend.  We will submit our plans in August and the final decision will be made next year. 

I would like to take this opportunity to reassure you that, regardless of the final decision next year, we will continue to provide cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and brachytherapy for urology patients at Southend Hospital, the same as we are now.  GPs will continue to refer patients with suspected cancer to their local hospital for investigation and diagnosis, and most cancer care will continue to be provided locally.