Uncertain future for cancer centre as NHS trust faces ‘extreme’ risks


- Credit: Archant

The future of the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust’s cancer centre – which has a catchment population of almost two million people – is at risk.

In this month’s board papers, it says: “There is a risk the NHS trust is not able to secure the long-term future of the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre.”

The Middlesex facility is the cancer centre for patients in our area, with more than 5,000 new patients registered each year and more than 500 staff.

The NHS trust – which also runs Lister Hospital in Stevenage and the New QEII Hospital in Welwyn Garden City – is facing further shocking threats to its service, with a risk assessment based on impact x likelihood grading nine issues as ‘extreme risk’.

All are either likely or certain to happen and will either have a major impact or result in death/catastrophe.

This includes risk to patient care and safety due to a lack of nursing and medical staff.

Deemed certain to happen is insufficent capacity to sustain timely and effective patient flow through the system – ultimately impacting on targets for cancer treatment, referral to treatment and A&E waiting times.

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Also deemed certain to happen is having insufficient capital funding to address all estates backlog maintenance, including fire estates work, and funding for medical equipment.

There is a danger IT systems are not sufficiently stabilised to ensure the hospitals are run in a safe and effective way.

In September, the NHS trust declared a serious incident after problems with a new electronic patient record system had led to up to 14,600 patient discharge summaries not being sent to GPs.

The IT problem was estimated to cost £7 million to fix but, four months later, the board papers say there is a “continuing failure to send discharge summaries electronically to the GP for every patient discharged”.

The problem could mean patients have missed medical tests, scans or appointments.

Other extreme risks relate to financial performance, safety culture, an insufficiently empowered workforce impacting on the NHS trust’s ability to deliver the required transformation, and the adverse affect of Brexit – particularly in the event of no deal being secured.

A spokesman for the NHS trust said: “Like all NHS organisations, it is important we understand the potential risks facing the NHS trust so we can put measures in place that will help minimise those risks.”