Driving forward with calls for Lister radiotherapy unit to save patients torment of Mount Vernon trek

Sir Oliver Heald puts Department of Health estimates to the test as he tries to drive to Mount Verno

Sir Oliver Heald puts Department of Health estimates to the test as he tries to drive to Mount Vernon in 45 minutes - Credit: Archant

Calls for a satellite radiotherapy unit at Stevenage’s Lister Hospital to save patients the gruelling journey to north London for treatment are being heard at the highest levels of the National Health Service.

North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald, who earlier this month handed in a petition to Parliament to press the case for a new unit, met senior NHS England figures on Tuesday to talk over the issues.

He was accompanied by Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland and consultant surgeon Tom Holme, who chairs the Lister’s consultants’ committee.

Before the summit session, Sir Oliver put the NHS ‘45 minutes to treatment’ guideline to the test by driving from North Herts to Mount Vernon, where most cancer patients receive radiotherapy. It took him nearly twice that time.

The MPs outlined the misery of the journey to Mount Vernon and pressed for two radiotherapy machines already at Mount Vernon to be reconditioned along with the necessary staffing.

NHS England has now agreed to research the area’s radiotherapy services as part of the national study of access to radiotherapy, with a report due in July.

At the same time the East and North Herts NHS Trust, which runs both Lister and Mount Vernon, is being encouraged to prepare and submit a business case for the rethink based on what’s already happened at the Christie Hospital in Manchester, which has satellites at Salford and Oldham.

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Sir Oliver said: “This was a real step forward and I will now ask the NHS trust to prepare and submit a business case as suggested.”

Mr McPartland added: “It’s massive progress and we’re going to get justice for cancer patients.”

A spokesman for the East & North Herts NHS Trust said: “We welcome the progress that has been made and we look forward to hearing from NHS England on what is required for us to do next.”