• Services at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in Hertfordshire being reviewed
  • Aim is to “ensure services can continue” for local population 
  • Long-term needs of area’s patients will be assessed 

NHS England will review a Hertfordshire cancer centre amid concerns over the services’ “long-term sustainability”.

In a letter, published in board papers for West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust’s May meeting, director for specialised commissioning at NHS England Ruth Ashmore said the services were run from an “increasingly ageing estate” at Mount Vernon Hospital. The service is managed by East and North Hertfordshire Trust, while The Hillingdon Hospitals Foundation Trust manages the estate. 

The review, which is due to begin this month and will run to the end of the summer, will look into “the delivery of complex cancer services without co-located acute services”. It will also consider challenges with estates and infrastructure and any potential solutions.

Ms Ashmore said NHS England, ENHT, and the East of England and the London Cancer Alliance had all agreed a review of the services “is the best way to understand the issues and plan a way forward”.

Chief executive of ENHT Nick Carver told HSJ: “Although we have spent quite a bit of money in the last decade in terms of new radiotherapy facilities and a new chemotherapy suite, partly aided by charitable monies, the estate itself is quite elderly.

“The wards are quite elderly. It has a number of listed buildings. Generally speaking, our facilities are not brand new but are quite significantly modernised. It has got its limitations.

“We think the review of the long-term sustainability makes absolute sense.”

Ms Ashmore’s letter said the review aimed to “ensure the services can continue” for patients in the area. However, there are “no preconceived ideas” of what will happen following the review.

Patients, clinicians, non-clinical staff and key stakeholders will all be consulted as part of the investigation “giving them the opportunity to shape the future of services”. The WHHT board papers described the review as “an important piece of work”, adding “WHHT clinicians and senior leadership team members will be fully engaged as the review progresses”. 

Future radiotherapy demand and the long-term needs of the population served by the centre will also be assessed.

Ms Ashmore stated: “We anticipate the review will lead to the development of options which will be designed to ensure the sustainability of cancer services for the populations served by the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre.

“These options will be the subject of much discussion and clinical engagement before any decisions are made about what the future services will look like. Any changes required will be subject to engagement with relevant stakeholders.”

A THHFT spokesman said: “THHFT is aware of the review of cancer services at Mount Vernon Hospital and is supportive of the review which we understand is looking at how best to improve services for patients. Like much of the NHS’ estate, the site is ageing and was built to accommodate different kinds of services.”

The centre, which is rated “requires improvement” by the Care Quality Commission, provides a range of services, including outpatient chemotherapy, nuclear medicine and radiotherapy for people living in Hertfordshire, south Bedfordshire, north west London and Berkshire. 

The centre’s consultant clinical oncologist, Jeanette Dickson, is president elect of The Royal College of Radiologists