Cancer patients face NHS treatment cuts and delays


Cancer sufferers are facing possible delays to their treatment schedule at a leading hospital after a major shortage in specialist nurses, a doctor has warned. 

A leaked memo to staff at Churchill Hospital in Oxford and seen by The Times, Dr Andrew Weaver has suggested that the number of chemotherapy cycles provided to patients could be cut back from six to four.

Dr Weaver is head of chemotherapy at the Oxford University Hospital Trust, wrote in the memo that "Currently we are down approximately 40% on the establishment of nurses on DTU and as a consequence we are having to delay chemotherapy patients' starting times to 4 weeks."

It is also reported that he wrote "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."

The Trust has reported that there have currently been no cuts or delys to treatment as of yet but a spokesperson cited the hospitals record in meeting national cancer waiting times over the past three years.

The Trust 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.

"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."

The spokesperson also said that no changes to chemotherapy treatment will be made before "thorough consideration has been given to all possible options."

They added that "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."

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