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Campaigner calls for rethink on proposals that could result in loss of N&N liver surgery specialism

PUBLISHED: 06:30 08 February 2014

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital at Colney.

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital at Colney.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2009

A campaigner has spoken of his fear that liver cancer patients in Norfolk may opt out of having treatment if the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital loses its specialist surgery status.

NHS chiefs announced last year that Addenbrooke’s Hospital had been chosen as the preferred site as a specialist centre for liver metastases resections, meaning that patients in Norfolk and Suffolk would have to travel to Cambridge for surgery.

Surgeons at the N&N and Addenbrooke’s currently carry out the liver cancer procedures, but NHS England says the services should serve a population of at least two million people and the number of specialist centres should be reduced from two to one.

Alan Stephens, chairman of the Together Against Cancer group in Norfolk, is calling for the N&N to carry on with liver resection surgery and is writing to local MPs urging them to lobby NHS bosses.

Since 2002, the N&N has carried out 241 liver resection procedures and Addenbrooke’s has performed 541 surgeries.

But Mr Stephens said there was a growing need for liver resection services and it was wrong to get rid of the N&N service.

“When old and frail people are faced with long journeys, they may make a decision not to go for treatment. When you have people that are totally capable of doing it here, there is no evidence base of having one big specialist centre,” he said.

Liver cancer surgery has been under review since 2011 and the N&N has held off from filling a surgeon vacancy until as decision is made.

A special meeting of the Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk Joint Health Scrutiny Committee was established to review the proposals by NHS England with councillors calling on two surgical sites to be retained, under the management of a single specialist team.

Angela Hallam, 70, of Saxmundham, who had two-thirds of her liver removed at the N&N in June 2011 to remove a tumour, said it would be a shame to lose the service in Norfolk.

“They are absolutely brilliant [at the N&N] and I am indebted to them because I could have died if I did not have this operation. I think NHS England are taking such a long time to decide,” she said.

A spokesman for NHS England said: “Our proposals were subject to public scrutiny by a Joint HOSC committee (Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire) in September and November 2013. This process is still ongoing and has not yet been concluded as we are still continuing to engage with the Joint HOSC.”

“We will be engaging with all key stakeholders, including the public, on the final recommendations and the future model. We have been working closely with Healthwatch in Norfolk and Suffolk and will continue to do so to ensure that we reach hard to reach groups as part of the engagement exercise.”

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