24 September 2008

This post follows on from this one about the relocation of upper gastrointestinal (UGI) cancer services from Cornwall.

Well, this settles it. The result of a review by independent medical expert of the service for upper gastrointestinal cancer at the Royal Cornwall Hospital at Treliske is crystal clear that the service should be discontinued at Treliske and be centralised in a single specialist centre which should be identified urgently so that it can be established by January 2010 (paragraph 8.5 of the review). This recommendation will affect the hospitals at Plymouth and Exeter too.

As Ann James, the chief executive of the primary care trust, says the review shows that a specialist UGI cancer centre will “increase the chance of survival and cure” for patients. That seems an unanswerable point to me.

I think we should first note the review’s comment that the present Treliske staff are “committed, diligent, and hardworking” and work well as a team and the current service is not unsafe. However, the review finds that the death rate at Treliske following surgery is higher than the national standard for various reasons (paragraphs 7.4 and 7.5 of the review), there are insufficient patients at Treliske to enable the team to experience the full range of problems associated with this cancer (7.2), and there is not enough surgical expertise cover at Treliske to deliver a sustainable service (7.1).

You can read the report here and the primary care trust’s summary here .

The review’s conclusions and recommendations should be supported without reservation by everyone, including the county council and protesters, and implemented speedily.

There is a follow-up post of 13 November 2008.