• Special measures trust pushes back debate on plan after clinical concerns raised
  • Queen Elizabeth Hospital could move cancer operations to hospital 40 miles away
  • Senior local clinicians warn plan creates “many serious risks for very little gain”

A trust in special measures has delayed a board discussion on plans to move cancer patients to a neighbouring hospital 40 miles away, amid patient safety concerns from senior clinicians.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn Foundation Trust, which was placed in special measures in September, was due to discuss plans to move its elective cancer programme to Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals Foundation Trust at its board meeting today.

But trust chief executive Jon Green said in his board report that the discussion was being delayed because “a thorough checking process” to assess the patient risk against doing nothing had not yet been completed.

The hospital’s staff medical committee has, however, warned that “the proposal creates many serious risks for staff and patients, for very little gain”.

Mr Green’s board paper added: “It is against this backdrop [severe capacity and staff shortages] that we have been exploring the possibility of moving planned cancer and urgent surgery to [NNUH] for the duration of winter.

“It is just one of the options which, in due course, will be brought forward. All proposals are assessed for their impact on patients and will not go ahead if not safe and the risk of taking action must always be assessed against the risk of doing nothing.

“It is because this proposal must go through a thorough checking process that it is not before our November board. It will, however, come before board as soon as is practicably possible.”

The trust has also held discussions with Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust about how to address the problem.

QEHKL decided against rolling out emergency proposals in September to suspend cancer and urgent operations but it also decided to “flexibly close” 12 elective and 12 medical beds because of staff shortages.

Local clinicians have, however, raised fundamental concerns about the plan.

The Eastern Daily Press reported today that Harald Geogloman, chair of the hospital’s staff medical committee, said: “When discussing the most recent proposal for cancer patients to have their surgery at the NNUH in case beds become short at the QEH, it became clear that our local clinical commissioning group was not informed of any such proposal and none of its details.

“They were understandably unable to comment on the details of the proposal, but shared our concerns regarding safety for patients and QEH staff, as the idea seems to be QEH staff travelling as well and performing the operations in Norwich.

“The [staff medical committee] is against the proposal as it creates many serious risks for staff and patients, for very little gain.”