• Three senior oncology resignations create ‘significant risk’ at Mid Essex
  • The three Essex acute trusts launch wider review of cancer provision across their health economy
  • Trust has ‘stabilised’ service in ‘the short term with agency locums’

A general hospital’s oncology department has been hit by three senior resignations which have halved its consultant resource – creating “significant risk and [exposing] the fragility of the service model”. 

The disclosure was made in a paper discussed by a paper discussed at the May meeting of the new group executive leadership team which is overseeing Mid Essex Hospital Services Trust, as well as Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals and Southend University Hospitals foundation trusts.

The paper also revealed that the new group launched a new cancer programme in March to develop a strategy across the three trusts to meet the “urgent challenge of oncology service sustainability, cancer waiting time performance recovery and delivery of the national strategy for cancer”.

The move is part of wider reconfiguration programme across the three trusts. The mid and south Essex sustainability plan says £17.1m can be saved by 2020-21 by reconfiguring mid and south Essex acute services.

On the issues facing Mid Essex the paper added: “The situation has been stabilised in the short term with agency locums and additional support from the oncology team in South Essex.

“However, there is an urgent need to design and implement a sustainable workforce model across the group initially focused on oncology medical staff then other areas such as chemotherapy nursing and cancer [clinical nurse specialist] roles drawing on [other] resources.”

A spokeswoman told HSJ the trust was interviewing for the three vacant posts, which would be joint posts with Southend, this month.

Mid Essex provides services for patients who have a cancer diagnosis and require chemotherapy and supportive care. Chemotherapy, in most cases, is delivered on site while radiotherapy is delivered at Southend and Colchester University Hospitals FT.

All three trusts have been outliers for some time in performance against the 62 day standard, the report said. Mid Essex hit the target 75 per cent against the 85 per cent requirement between January and March 2017.

The trust has largely performed between 70 and 75 per cent over the last two year financial years. Its performance has however been better in recent months than both Basildon and Southend. All three trusts submitted a recovery plan setting out how they will be compliant with the 85 per cent target from July.