The Banbury Guardian has finally received missing papers in its effort to find out why Oxford University Hospitals Trust (OUH) has done a U-turn on privatisation of its advanced cancer scanner operation.
However, it appears some correspondence between the Trust and NHS England - which is pushing for a company called InHealth to take over scan management - has still not been included.
The Banbury Guardian has called for these to be supplied as soon as possible.
Clinicians, dismayed at the NHSE’s decision to pass their established, world-renowned service to a private provider, are worried that patients will receive a less safe service than the one they receive now at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford.
NHS England does not accept that the result of the privatisation would put patient safety at risk or compromise the provision of cancer care and research.
NHSE wants to give patients the opportunity to have their PET-CT scans closer to home. InHealth would provide mobile scanners in Milton Keynes and Swindon.
But Churchill specialists say the portable scanners are limited in the sophistication of scans they can provide, they are not suitable for a number of patients and various stages of cancer and the contract will not include scans to help plan radiotherapy - as they do in Oxford.
They say the mobile units will not have doctors on site to deal with dangerous complications. And they have concerns about the equipment checks which, they say, will not be as frequent as the daily inspections at the Churchill.
Bill MacKeith of Keep Our NHS Public Oxfordshire (KONPOX) said: “‘Preferred provider’ status was awarded to InHealth some nine months ago. The process and decision were referred by Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee to the Secretary of State Matt Hancock in April.
“NHS England have muddied the waters by introducing the concept of a ‘partnership’ whereby InHealth still gets the contract, covering the introduction of mobile PET-CT scanners in Milton Keynes and Swindon, but sub-contracts the Oxford service to the OUH which currently provides this world-class service.”
The Banbury Guardian’s Special Report next week will give a timeline on the two-year bidding war for the service which is currently attached to important cancer research between OUH specialists in collaboration with Oxford University scientists.
The story includes bidding by companies InHealth and Alliance Medical and OUH’s bid to retain its own service.
It also shows how OUH took out a High Court action against NHSE but then dropped it. It continues with safety conditions the Trust called for if it were to enter a partnership with InHealth and rejections of some of these via NHSE.
OUH Trust Board finally rejected NHSE’s proposals last December.
However by spring this year the correspondence indicates discussions were back on track, though no correspondence about how this reunion came about has been included in the FOI material.
KONPOX member Jeanne Warren said: “The public needs to know about the shocking privatisation going on and the PET-CT case is a clear example of needless interference in an excellent existing service. And for what?
“It is ridiculous to think altering the service in Oxford could be thought to enhance patient care.
“Money and time are being wasted on a wild goose chase, trying to justify giving InHealth part of the action.”
Cancer specialist and researcher, Professor Adrian Harris questioned the Trust’s continuing discussions with NHSE when its doctors had refused to be part of them because of their concerns for ongoing safety.
And he asked for an explanation as to why the Trust dropped its High Court action with no explanation.
Prof Harris also criticised the Trust for refusing to respond to the Banbury Guardian’s repeated requests for information over several months against the rules of the Freedom of Information Act.
He made a further call to Trust bosses to let its clinicians - who prepared the OUH bid for the PET-CT scanner service - know the contents of that bid.