Cancer surgery at Newham University Hospital halted over lack of doctors

Save Our Surgeries campaigners fear bowel surgery at Newham University Hospital will be permanently

Save Our Surgeries campaigners fear bowel surgery at Newham University Hospital will be permanently cut - Credit: Archant

Newham University Hospital could be downgraded, campaigners have warned, after bowel surgery was withdrawn from its services due to a shortage of specialist surgeons.

They fear that the indefinite suspension of surgery will make the hospital less able to offer ­appropriate care, putting ­patients at risk and making Newham a “poor relation” to other hospitals in the Barts Health Trust.

Dr Ron Singer, chairman of Newham Save Our NHS, said: “We have often feared and voiced the concern that Newham is vulnerable and could become the poor relation of Whipps Cross and The Royal London.”

Newham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) was not consulted on the decision by Barts Health Trust.

A spokesman for the Barts Health Trust said: “This decision was taken to maintain patient safety after a recent review highlighted that due to a current shortage of specialist surgeons at the Newham site, the service would not meet recognised safety standards for this specialist surgery in the near future.

“It is important to stress that no patients have suffered any harm and through taking this action now, we will ensure the ongoing safety of patients in Newham requiring surgery for colorectal cancer.” Routine non-cancer bowel surgery has also been suspended.

Dr Singer has suggested that the 10 specialist bowel surgeons are on call across all three hospitals on a rota to ensure a consistent standard of care, particularly for woman in childbirth.

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“Chances of women in trouble injuring bowels in childbirth is high,” he said. “It is not possible to transfer a mother in labour if her bowl is perforated – you need someone on premises. Casualties are also brought in by car, for stab wounds, and so on.” He added that he understood that reductions to the service were the result of cuts from the government.

An NHS Newham CCG spokesman said it had been assured the transfer of colorectal cancer surgery to other hospital sites was a temporary measure and would ensure a safer level of care for local people. “As the local leader of the NHS we are working hard to ensure that Newham University Hospital has all the services required to maintain its status as a major hospital,” he added.

The Barts spokesman added it would work with Newham CCG over the best long-term option.

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