• PET-CT scans will continue to be provided at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford 
  • Partnership agreement reached with Oxfordshire University Hospitals FT and private provider InHealth
  • New mobile scanners based in Swindon, Berkshire and Milton Keynes will be run by InHealth

Specialist cancer scans will continue to be provided by a major teaching trust after NHS England backtracked on a decision to award the work solely to a private provider.

In March Oxford University Hospitals FT lost its contract to provide PET-CT scanning for the Thames Valley at Churchill Hospital, in Headington, following a controversial procurement process run by the national commissioner.

The contract was going to be handed over to private company InHealth, while the service at Churchill site – a specialist cancer care centre– would be relocated.

However, it has now been confirmed that OUH will continue to run the scanning service at Churchill Hospital after a partnership agreement was reached with InHealth.

InHealth will now provide mobile scanning services in the wider area at Milton Keynes University Hospital Trust, Royal Berkshire FT and Great Western Hospitals FT. Mobile scanners will be used at the sites, with a view to introduce a permanent service “in the longer term”.

The private healthcare company offers diagnostic and healthcare services to the NHS as well as private providers. In 2018 it had revenue of £165.2m and £4.5m profit beofre tax, according to its latest annual accounts published on Companies House.

In a joint statement, OUH chief executive Dr Bruno Holthof and chair, Sir Jonathan Montgomery, said: “Following a number of discussions which involved both clinicians and senior managers, we are pleased that we have now reached an agreement with NHS England.

“Most importantly, there will be no change to the current PET-CT service at the Churchill Hospital, which will continue to be run by OUH and we will continue to be directly accountable to NHS England for this service.

“The current clinical pathways for our patients will be maintained and any changes in these pathways will be decided by clinicians.”

The original decision to strip OUH of the contract sparked a raft of complaints from the public and politicians, who feared residents living in areas with the new mobile scanners would be offered an “inferior” service.

Co-chair of the Socialist Health Association Oxfordshire and member of the Oxfordshire Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, councillor Nadine Bely-Summers, welcomed the news that the Churchil’s scanning service will not be privatised, however added “the fight will continue” for the rest of the Thames Valley.

She said: ”This is an important campaign as the Churchill cancer service is a world class service provided by dedicated and highly trained professionals part of a multi- disciplinary team.

”Regrettably the fight will continue because for the rest of the Thames Valley , InHealth a private company, has been given the PET CT scanner contract, introducing a two-tier service for residents outside of Oxford.”

However, chief executive of MKUH Joe Harrison said the introduction of PET-CT scanning to Milton Keynes will mean patients won’t have to travel to Oxford for the cancer scans.

He told HSJ: “As long as the service is quality assured and is an appropriate local service to provider we surely must be able to use technology to connect clinicians in the right way.

“If it is InHealth providing it on the Milton Keynes site or Oxford providing it on the Milton Keynes site, for us the key is that it is on the Milton Keynes site.

“What we are really happy about is for local patients to be treated appropriately and not have to go into Oxford. This is a real benefit for our patients.”

A statement released by NHS England said the introduction of mobile scanners across the Thames Valley would reduce waiting times for patients.

It will also “ensure the easy transfer of scans and scan reports between different doctors and sites”, the statement said.

The PET-CT scanning row in Oxfordshire

In March 2019 OUH lost its contract to provide the specialist cancer scanning service to patients across the Thames Valley.

The new deal was handed over to private provider InHealth, despite OUH submitting a rival bid for the service.

This meant the PET-CT scanning service at Churchill Hospital would have been scrapped and relocated to a GenesisCare facility four miles away.

The move sparked anger amongst the public and politicians who raised concerns that patients would have to travel away from the hospital to have the scans.

Following the backlash, NHS England sought to secure a formal partnership between InHeath and OUH to provide the scanning service. However, OUH decided to refer the matter to the Oxfordshire joint health overview and scrutiny committee.

The committee referred the issue to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock for review, however, he turned it down.

Now, a partnership agreement has been reached with OUH and InHealth so services can be retained at the Churchill site.

InHealth will provide mobile PET-CT scans in Milton Keynes, Berkshire and Swindon.


HSJ National Cancer Forum

The HSJ National Cancer Forum takes place on 18 March 2020 at the Park Plaza Victoria in London. Taking place over one day, the forum will bring together the cancer community to discuss national policy and how to deliver the long-term plan at a local level. The event is free to attend for the relevant audience from the NHS. By attending you will gain clarity on and hear analysis of national policy from those responsible for shaping it, and understand how to implement it in your area. You will also explore the future of cancer care, and the innovations along the whole pathway.

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