Cancer patients from Milton Keynes forced to go to Oxford or Northampton for radiotherapy after contract ends
Cancer patients are being forced to travel to either Oxford or Northampton for life-saving radiotherapy treatment – sometimes on a daily basis – after an NHS contract with a private company in Milton Keynes ended.
But Milton Keynes Hospital, which has been blasted by irate patients since the contract ended on December 16, insisted that it is not at fault for the change as radiotherapy services are the responsibility of heath chiefs in Oxford.
“There are some very angry Milton Keynes patients,” said MK Hospital chief executive Joe Harrison. “They are writing to me, to MPs and to the world and his wife and we can’t provide the services. They are provided by Oxford University Hospital.
“It is not just a patient experience issue, it is an issue of patient safety,” he added. “We have to do something about it, not just give warm words but take action. This situation is unacceptable for Milton Keynes.”
Under arcane NHS rules, radiotherapy comes under “specialist commissioning” which is determined by NHS England.
This means the Oxford University Hospital instead of directing MK patients to Linford Wood in the city, now sends them to the radiotherapy unit at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford or Northampton General Hospital for treatment.
Some patients, including those with prostate and breast cancer, require daily radiotherapy treatments.
Even with a new cancer centre due to open at the MK Hospital site in February, the issue has not yet been sorted out.
Mr Harrison told the MK University Hospital Trust Board on Thursday that he is “desperate” to find a solution.
Dr Ian Reckless, the trust’s medical director, said Oxford’s contract with private provider Genesis Care, in Linford Wood, had come to a “natural conclusion”.
He added: “The team is working very hard with Oxford to make sure patients can be treated as close to home as possible.”
John Blakesley, the deputy chief executive, said MK was recognised as a “radiotherapy black spot” with other services more than 45 minutes travel time away.
After the meeting a spokesman for MK Hospital said: “We are working with OUH to try and re-establish a local radiotherapy service and to maintain treatment as close to home as possible.
“We understand the strength of feeling on this issue, and would like to offer our sincere apologies for the upset and inconvenience this has caused patients at what is already a difficult time.”
A spokesman for Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust said: “We would like to apologise for any distress this situation has caused to cancer patients who require radiotherapy treatment.
“OUH is working jointly with Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to develop plans to build a radiotherapy treatment facility on the Milton Keynes Hospital site, adjacent to the new Cancer Centre.”