Switching cancer surgery from Royal London puts trauma patients at risk, surgeons warn

Doctors and surgeons fear trauma patients’ lives could be at risk if medical specialists are taken away from the Royal London Hospital under new NHS plans.

NHS bosses at the Barts Health Trust which runs the Royal London are being faced with specialist cancer services being switched to University College Hospital in central London.

This would lead to “unforeseen consequences” for the trauma centre which could put emergency patients at risk, a packed meeting of doctors and surgeons heard.

“Over-centralisation of cancer surgery away from the Royal London would lead to unintended consequences with a knock-on effect,” said Save Our NHS campaigner Dr Ron Singer.

“If a trauma doctor sees something worrying and needs a specialist, they’re currently on the premises. But having to travel from UCH in Euston will cause delays and risk lives.”

The Royal London in Whitechapel, where the Air Ambulance helicopter is based, is London’s main trauma centre.

Some 70 doctors, surgeons, consultants and GPs from the Royal London, Bart’s, Newham and Whipps Cross hospitals packed the British Medical Association’s emergency meeting held at Whitechapel’s Jagonori Centre.

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They put their concerns directly to Barts Trust medical director Steve Ryan, who agreed there were things that hadn’t been thought out and undertook to sort any problems—but only after the changes.

A Barts Trust statement said later: “We have no plans to cut or remove services, although locations may change if it allows us to remove areas of waste or duplication.

“Major changes are necessary for London, where two-thirds of early deaths result from cancer and heart disease.

“Around 350 specialist cancer operations a year could move from the Trust–less than one per cent of the 28,000 episodes of our cancer care.”

Dr Ryan was working with the lead surgeons to ensure the quality of the trauma service at the Royal London was not compromised, the Trust insisted.

But the surgeons and doctors at last Wednesday’s meeting were not convinced.

Dr Jackie Applebee, who chaired the meeting, said: “Moving specialist cancer services away from east London is unworkable—the NHS must think again.

“Barts Trust covers one of the most deprived areas of Britain. Patients have difficulty travelling into central London.”

The BMA campaigners want the plans delayed, first revealed in an NHS report last month, which include switching complex head and neck, brain, stomach, oesophageal and other cancer surgery to University College in Euston, while transferring cardiac services at Bethnal Green’s London Chest Hospital to St Bartholemew’s in the City.