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Healthwatch Oxfordshire responds to article in The Times concerning Churchill Hospital

10/01/2018

Healthwatch Oxfordshire has issued the following response following an article in The Times newspaper today (January 10). The article, based on a leaked document, claims that patients could face delays in treatment, owing to staff shortages of up to 40%.

Rosalind Pearce, Executive Director of Healthwatch Oxfordshire, said: “It is very worrying for patients to learn from a national newspaper that their cancer care and cancer treatment may be delayed. It is time that Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust made a full statement and cleared the air about what is going on at the hospital, not just around cancer treatment but all treatment.

“We hear a lot about staff shortages at the hospitals, and the public needs to know what is going on, what the hospital is doing about it, and whether it is going to impact on patients.  We do not want to told continuously that operations are being cancelled or there is a delay in treatment because of staff shortages or whatever reason. The hospital authorities should be more positive and tell the public how they are overcoming the difficulties so that the public and patients can be reassured. 

“We don’t want to wait until someone tells us there is a problem – the Trust should be managing this much better.”

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has issued the following statement in response to the article:

"Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust meets the national cancer waiting time standard of starting chemotherapy within 31 days of a clinical decision having been taken that chemotherapy is the most appropriate form of treatment for an individual patient.

"The Trust has met this standard for the last three years, despite the fact that during this time the number of patients needing chemotherapy treatment has increased by 10-12% each year, and is committed to maintaining it.

"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.

"However, it does not represent a change to our formal policy for chemotherapy treatment. No such change has been agreed by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

"We would like to reassure our patients that no changes to chemotherapy treatment have been made or will be made before thorough consideration has been given to all possible options.

"Any decision to change the approach to cancer treatment so significantly would require a thorough assessment of the potential impact on the quality and safety of treatment and care provided to cancer patients, options outlined clearly in writing, and a formal proposal presented to the Trust’s Executive Directors for their approval before implementation.

"Any changes to treatment would also need to comply with national guidance and evidence from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and others.

"In common with many other NHS organisations, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust faces an ongoing challenge to recruit nursing staff.

"Trustwide initiatives to tackle this challenge include actively recruiting nurses from overseas and working closely with Oxford Brookes University to recruit newly qualified nurses into jobs with Oxford University Hospitals.

"Specific initiatives within our chemotherapy service include weekly shortlisting and interviewing of clinical staff, as well as rapid access to chemotherapy education and training for newly recruited staff."

You can read the article from The Times at this link

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