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Islanders concerned about radiotherapy move


Isles of Scilly residents have expressed concern that they may have to travel to Plymouth or Exeter for cancer treatment as part of new NHS proposals.

If plans go ahead, patients with "less common" cancers who require radiotherapy may have to go to Derriford Hospital rather than Treliske in Truro as part of a move by NHS England to centralise services.

Treatment is currently given at the Sunrise Centre at the Royal Cornwall Hospital at Treliske, which sees around 2,000 patients a year.

NHS England is now looking at maximising the effectiveness of its £130 million equipment modernisation investment with the creation of 11 regional Radiotherapy Networks across the UK.

St Mary's resident Lou Simpson Morgan shared a post from a Treliske cancer nurse on Facebook, saying: "This is so important... it will mean that some cancer patients within Cornwall and Isles of Scilly will have no option but to travel out of county for vital treatment - when we are delivering high quality care here already!

"My concern is that people will not want to travel for the treatment and their outcomes will be seriously compromised. The people of Cornwall have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for the Sunrise Appeal and getting the most up to date radiotherapy equipment here in Cornwall - we cannot lose it. Please, please voice your concerns to NHS England and ask as many people as you can to do the same - let’s keep our treatment local."

Lou told This is Scilly News: "I had just a week's worth of radiotherapy in September and the journey from just Penzance to Treliske each day was just awful when you feel so rotten and low." She added that she is very grateful for the treatment in Truro but is concerned about travelling further, saying: "It's unthinkable that this could happen, people's health will be compromised if this goes ahead."

Cancer staff at Treliske wrote a letter expressing concerns that patients would have to travel long distances for treatment that is already available locally.

The letter, signed by the Cornwall Cancer Team, reads: "At the Royal Cornwall Hospital, we have built up over the last 15 years, an excellent team with a national reputation as a cutting edge dynamic team, offering patients the latest clinical studies and treatments to the highest international standards."

It goes on to say that patients could end up spending huge amounts of time travelling large distances, "which may cause people to elect for suboptimal treatment rather than travel". The letter also point out that it will cost millions to provide extra capacity at the other centres.

Meanwhile, Scilly's MP Derek Thomas said that he has "sought clarification" on the matter after being contacted by concerned constituents.

He added: "I am keeping a close eye on this and will work to secure what is right for patients."

An eight-week public consultation on the proposals ends on December 18th and Healthwatch Isles of Scilly have urged islanders to share their views. Find out how to do so here.

The organisation reported in August that some islanders were choosing not to receive cancer treatment as they cannot afford the cost of mainland accommodation.

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