Churchill Hospital chemotherapy treatment 'unsustainable'

From BBC - January 10, 2018

Cancer care at an NHS specialist hospital is becoming "unsustainable" because of staff shortages, its boss has warned.

A memo to Oxford's Churchill Hospital staff, which was leaked to The Times, said chemotherapy cycles could be cut.

The memo from head of chemotherapy Dr Andrew Weaver says patients face delays as nurse numbers were about 40% down.

A hospital trust spokesman stressed no decisions had yet been made that may affect treatment.

Dr Weaver wrote the hospital did not have enough nurses trained to deal with medication at the hospital's day treatment unit.

"As a consequence we are having to delay chemotherapy patients' starting times to four weeks," he wrote.

An Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spokesman told the BBC starting times were usually within four weeks, but understood the memo to mean they may have to be pushed back to the "furthest limits" of this time frame.

He said the hospital had met the national cancer waiting time standard of starting chemotherapy within 31 days of a clinical decision having been made, despite increases in cancer patient numbers.

But the memo also suggested cutting back on treatment to alleviate symptoms from six cycles to four.

"I know that many of us will find it difficult to accept these changes but the bottom line is that the current situation with limited numbers of staff is unsustainable," Dr Weaver adds.

The trust spokesman said: "We have not made any decisions to delay the start of chemotherapy treatment or to reduce the number of cycles of chemotherapy treatment which patients with cancer receive.

"The internal email from Dr Andrew Weaver sets out some of the challenges facing our chemotherapy service, with his ideas for how to tackle these issues, and invites constructive comments and alternative proposals from other cancer doctors and clinical staff.

'Chronic problem'


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