The last of the four public meetings on the future of Hinchingbrooke Hospital, dealing with cancer services, was held in St Ives last Wednesday. Report by ANGELA SINGER. Pictures: HUNTS POST ANY cut in cancer services at Hinchingbrooke could cause the r

ONLY A YEAR AGO WE WERE GOING TO EXPAND: Bassam Belcdash.

The last of the four public meetings on the future of Hinchingbrooke

Hospital, dealing with cancer services, was held in St Ives last Wednesday. Report by ANGELA SINGER. Pictures: HUNTS POST

ANY cut in cancer services at Hinchingbrooke could cause the rest of hospital's services to collapse like a domino effect and put the future of all surgery in jeopardy.

CANCER UNIT IN 
DANGER: Katy Hoggarth

Consultants at the hospital also warned that cuts to surgery for cancer patients could "threaten the existence" of the maternity unit. They said that because of the connection between surgery for cancer, general operations and Caesarean sections, cuts to one type of surgery would affect them all.

Dr Katy Hoggarth, consultant haematologist and cancer lead, told the meeting at Slepe Hall in St Ives: "If we do not treat sufficient patients, it may be decided that we can no longer be a cancer centre. If we lose just one service, it will not be viable. Reduction in one treatment on site or any major service puts the viability of the cancer unit in doubt."

She added: "We cannot consider cancer in isolation. If we remove some cancer surgery, the viability of surgery as a whole will be in doubt."

Consultant surgeon, Bassam Bekdash said only a year ago there had been plans by the trust to employ more surgeons and to expand intensive care at the hospital.

TWELVE-HOUR DAYS FOR CHEMO PATIENTS: Jaqui Williams-Durkin.

"If arguments are to be made to shut one of the cancer services, the rest will be weakened because we are interdependent. Change to one item of cancer services will affect the rest."

Hisham Abdel-Rahman, consultant gynaecologist, said the current services at Hinchingbrooke allowed it to screen and deal with most cancer patients.

"They are reassured and discharged on the same day, but if they were not referred to Hinchingbrooke, they and their families would have to travel to Addenbrooke's unnecessarily.

"Eight out of 10 patients are treated at Hinchingbrooke, only two out of 10 are referred to Addenbrooke's.

"I am very concerned that if more patients are sent further away they will be lost in the system and their treatment delayed."

It was a concern shared by others at the meeting.

Speaking from the floor, cancer patient, Jaqui Williams-Durkin, who chairs a group for cancer patients at Hinchingbrooke, Addenbrooke's and Papworth, said: "At Addenbrooke's 13 or 14-hour days are not uncommon for chemotherapy patients because of the sheer volume.

"This is horrendous and dangerous. Also, if people have a high temperature they need to get to hospital quickly, if there is no local service, people can die within hours."

Dr Hoggarth agreed with Mrs Williams-Durkin, and added: "Addenbrooke's is completely full and can't take any more, and Peterborough Hospital is also extremely full. It is very difficult to see where people can go and with the current transport problems we have in this region it is extremely grave. This is a very difficult issue."

Brendan Boyle, a Huntingdon GP for 20 years, said losing services at Hinchingbrooke would also cut the high level of communication between GPs and the hospital.

"Local GPs feel even more deeply the need for a viable range of core services for the local population. If you start eating away at one of the branches of the service, there can be a domino effect and the whole thing falls over. Both Addenbrooke's and

Peterborough are stretched to

provide services for their own core catchment areas.

"Because we are a relatively small area, we have incredibly good communication with our hospital colleagues. If I want to talk about a patient, I know Katy will get back to me within the hour. That contact would deteriorate if we were to lose Hinchingbrooke."

Former cancer patient, Sue Hammond from Ramsey St Mary's added: "If we are treated locally where we can be supported by our friends and family, we recover more quickly and that costs less."

# Asked why none of the four public meetings had been in St Neots, strategic health authority project director, Darren Leech said: "We tried but there was no venue available on the date, the nearest we could get was Buckden. We are very conscious that patients from St Neots are anxious to be included in the consultation." He said future meetings would be planned earlier.

# Proposals for the hospital's future are expected to be announced by January. Further consultation work will take place at a later date.