Will plans for radiotherapy unit at Stevenage's Lister Hospital ever reach fruition?

PUBLISHED: 08:25 07 November 2019 | UPDATED: 08:37 07 November 2019

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland with health minister Matt Hancock and North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald. Picture: Office of Stephen McPartland MP

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland with health minister Matt Hancock and North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald. Picture: Office of Stephen McPartland MP

Archant

Nine years since the launch of a campaign to provide cancer patients with radiotherapy treatment at Stevenage's Lister Hospital and it still seems little more than a pipe dream.

While both serving MPs for Stevenage and North East Herts respectively, Stephen McPartland and Sir Oliver Heald launched the campaign for a satellite radiotherapy unit on the Stevenage hospital site because cancer patients in Herts and Beds must make a 70-mile round trip to the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in Middlesex for routine radiotherapy.

The business case for the centre was finally completed by the East and North Herts NHS Trust, which runs Lister, in June 2018 and could provide 80 per cent of radiotherapy for cancer patients living in east and north Herts.

But an open commitment to rolling out these plans has been conspicuously absent.

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Last week, prior to the dissolution of Parliament ahead of the December General Election, Mr McPartland raised the campaign in the House of Commons. He said: "There are more than 1.5 million people in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, and they have no access to a radiotherapy facility in either county. Will the [health] minister agree to bring cancer care closer to people's homes and join the campaign to establish a satellite radiotherapy unit in Stevenage?"

The minister replied: "My honorary friend is right to highlight the importance of easy access to such facilities. I am happy to meet him and {Sir Oliver] to discuss that."

Following the meeting, Sir Oliver said: "After meeting Nick Carver, the chief executive of the East and North NHS Trust, and hearing the response to us from ministers, I believe Stephen and I are making progress in our campaign with residents for delivery of radiotherapy locally." But there is no elaboration on what this 'progress' actually is.

It has recently been announced the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre will be moved to another site after a review found the dilapidated estate not fit for purpose.

The review, commissioned by NHS England, concluded that a new cancer centre will be built on an acute hospital site, preferably "central to the existing catchment area to maintain patient access", but there is no commitment to providing radiotherapy at Lister. The report just says: "Additional radiotherapy satellite provision in the north of the catchment area would be preferable."

The East and North Herts NHS Trust was contacted for comment, but had not responded at the time of going to press.

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