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Essex-wide committee says NHS urological cancer surgery centre proposals must be clearer

23 September 2016

Communication from NHS England on its proposal to have a single centre for complex urological cancer surgery in Essex needs to be made clearer, according to a Joint Essex-wide Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee. 

A committee comprised of councillors from Essex County Council, Southend and Thurrock councils has been reviewing the NHS England proposal to site the centre at Southend Hospital. The Committee has been looking in particular at how NHS England reached their conclusion of recommending the site at Southend and how they have been communicating and engaging with the public and service users up to now on the proposal.

As part of its review the Committee spoke to patient group representatives and clinical nurse specialists to hear first-hand how they felt the communication process had been managed as well as discussing the proposal directly with NHS England on three separate occasions before and during the procurement process. 

Essex County Councillor Ann Naylor, Chairman of the Joint Committee, said: “There is clear evidence that patient outcomes are better after complex surgery for the rarer types of cancer if surgeons and clinicians are able to carry out these operations in fewer and larger specialist surgical centres as it helps them build and maintain their expertise. We support the reasons for the centralising of complex urological surgery at one centre in Essex. However, we have had concerns around the adequacy and clarity of stakeholder engagement up to now. Future communications with patients and the public needs to make it very clear that the proposed reconfiguration relates solely to the most complex of urological cancer surgery, and only immediate pre and post-operative care for that surgery. We are pleased to hear that NHS England have acknowledged that such engagement needs to improve in future.”

The Joint Committee has made eight recommendations to NHS England primarily around future communications and engagement. The Joint Committee would also like to see NHS England engaged in more partnership working with its external stakeholders, including patients, on this and similar reconfiguration issues in future.

Vice Chairman of the Joint Committee and Southend-on-Sea Borough Councillor Cheryl Nevin, said: “Working in partnership with our colleagues in Thurrock and Essex we were tasked with scrutinising proposals to create a single site for an “Essex wide solution” for Specialist urological cancer surgery. Following a review of both the Colchester and Southend hospital sites and tender submissions, I am satisfied that NHS England and the Clinical Evaluation panel recommendation has clearly demonstrated that the proposed location at Southend Hospital is in the best interests of improving patient outcomes for Essex residents.”

The Joint Committee recommended further public engagement  be undertaken as the new service is embedded to aid a smooth transition for patients.