Frustration at lack of progress to get radiotherapy cancer services based in West Sussex

Housing radiotherapy services in West Sussex have been proposed at St Richard's in Chichester. Currently there are no linacs based in the county
Housing radiotherapy services in West Sussex have been proposed at St Richard's in Chichester. Currently there are no linacs based in the county

A frustrated councillor has hit out at the ‘endless layers of bureaucracy’ in the NHS as the fight for a cancer treatment unit in West Sussex continues.

Patients in the county currently face long and painful journeys to Brighton, Guildford and London to receive radiotherapy.

For some, the trip would prove to be so traumatic they choose not to undergo treatment.

West Sussex is the only county in England not to have radiotherapy equipment, known as linacs, within its boundary.

Both the Surrey and Sussex Cancer Alliance and NHS England have supported the idea of housing two of the machines at St Richard’s Hospital, in Chichester – but progress on actually getting it done seems to have stalled.

At a meeting of the county council’s health & adult social care committee (HASC) on Friday, members were given an update on a recent public consultation on radiotherapy services in England.

Fiona Mackison, of NHS England South East, told the meeting that there was nothing in the new service specifications to stop the plans for St Richard’s.

But that wasn’t good enough for James Walsh (Lib Dem, Littlehampton East).

Dr Walsh said he was ‘slightly dismayed’ by the tone of the report, adding: “There’s nothing in here to say it can’t happen?

“What I want to hear is a commitment that it’s going to happen and we’re going to have our two linacs at Chichester within, let me say, two years.”

Phil McNamara, of the Surrey and Sussex Cancer Alliance, told the meeting that two years was unlikely, adding: “We will categorically be immediately pushing forward with our plans for West Sussex, to say that we again continue to endorse the two linac position.”

But he pointed out that the next move had to see NHS Trust providers express an interest and come forward to develop a business plan.

Mr McNamara added: “We’re there to work with them at every single stage.”

It was pointed out that such interest had been expressed by the Western Sussex Hospitals Trust at a previous meeting.

HASC chairman Bryan Turner agreed he would write to the Trust and ask them to ‘start their process going as soon as possible’.

Dr Walsh said: “My concern is that we’re not really any further on from 12 years ago when this all started.

“NHS personnel come and go and every time the reins are taken over by new people we have to almost start, it appears, from the beginning again.”

He added: “Every decision in the NHS these days seems to go through endless layers of bureaucracy.”