The long running tug of war between NHS Trusts in South Essex over a £2.5 million cancer scanner has taken a new twist, it was revealed last week.
The life-saving PET-CT scanner, which uses dye to locate cancers, has been standing idle for two years following a dispute between Southend and Basildon hospitals as to where it should be located. The dispute appeared to be nearing resolution recently when, following local consultation by NHS England, Essex County Council recommended that the scanner should be based at Southend.
However, further delays now seem inevitable following an appeal to the Secretary of State by councillors in the Thurrock area, who want the scanner to be located at Basildon. In an 8 point letter, they have asked the Government to overturn the Essex County Council recommendation.
The main concern raised in the letter is the distance that patients in the Thurrock and Basildon area will have to travel in order to get to Southend for treatment. Eric Watts, a former consultant haematologist and clinical director at Basildon Hospital, added his support to the councillors’ objections. He said, “People will be undergoing continuous treatment, and treatment that will make them poorly. The natural home for this scanner is Basildon.”
Yet unsurprisingly Southend Hospital’s Cancer and Radiology Team believe the scanner should remain at Southend, particularly as experts have suggested that the best location must be alongside existing radiotherapy facilities. Jon Findlay, Chief Operating Officer at Southend Hospital, said, “Once again, we reiterate our support for the scanner to be located at the cancer centre at Southend as we already provide radiotherapy for the whole South Essex population at Southend.”
To what extent is clinical need being upstaged by politics? The arguments on both sides have been well documented in the local press, but the failure to resolve the issue has angered residents, who see a valuable piece of medical equipment in mothballs when it could be saving lives.