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‘Catastrophic’ threat to cancer ops at England’s third largest hospital trust

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Cancer services at large hospital trust have been at ‘catastrophic’ risk of being overwhelmed, after two of its hospital sites had to suspend life-saving cancer surgeries in the last month due to COVID-19.

In its latest board papers Mid and South Essex Foundation Trust rated the “cancellation of cancer elective activity” at its highest risk level of 25 – which based on their own risk-scoring key is “catastrophic”. It said the expected consequences at this risk level include “permanent disability or death, serious irreversible health effects” and an “unacceptable… quality of service”.

The trust runs three general acute hospitals in the county. Its 2,000 plus beds make it the third largest trust in England after University Hospitals Birmingham FT and Leeds Teaching Hospitals.

The same board papers, dated 28 January, said cancer surgery at Southend University Hospital, one of three hospital sites run by the trust, “ceased on 24 December”. At a second hospital site, Mid Essex Hospital covid “hit hard just before Christmas” and elective work was “dramatically impacted with short period of life and limb only carried out on site”. This meant all P2 cancer surgery — which requires treatment in less than four weeks — did not take place. 

Both hospital sites said they hoped the independent sector could help them restart cancer surgeries this month with a focus on “long waiting and clinical urgent patients”. It is not clear how much capacity the sector has to work through waiting lists and the board papers said “some of this capacity may be reduced” because of recent changes to a new national contract for the independent sector.

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: HSJ, 29 January 2021

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