Banbury backs fight against PET-CT cancer scanner privatisation

The Churchill Hospital, Oxford where the PET-CT scanners are installed NNL-190219-193213009
The Churchill Hospital, Oxford where the PET-CT scanners are installed NNL-190219-193213009

The prospect of cancer patients being put in taxis and driven miles for tumour scans by a private company was described this week.

Banbury NHS stakeholders heard how NHS England’s bid to privatise the Churchill Hospital’s PET-CT scanners could mean the resignation of specialists and disruption of global research into cancer.

Anita Higham, an elected governor of Oxford University Hospitals Trust (OUH) expressed alarm at the plan at Tuesday’s Community Partnership Network.

“(Oxford) University has just bought a third scanner because of the significance of the quality of the research in that department,” she said.

Mrs Higham said the privatisation had been dealt with entirely by NHS England as it is a specialist, regional service but she lamented the fact that Oxfordshire and South East health chiefs were completely bypassed.

“Why (NHSE commissioners) did not understand that anything which might require patients being put into a taxi or ambulance to go to the Milton Park Estate or Abingdon was going to impact on patient services, why they didn’t know it would have to go through the Health Overview and Scrutiny committee is a mystery to me,” said Mrs Higham.

She said the preferred bidder, InHealth, had suggested various locations for the scanners (which are built into specially reinforced structures) but recently think they may run the service where it now is - at the Churchill Hospital.

It is understood some staff at the unit feel so aggrieved they would rather resign than work with InHealth.

Mrs Higham said OUH Chief Executive Dr Bruno Holthof had agreed to the contract, under pressure.

Non executive directors were unhappy and eventually OUH chairman Dame Fiona Caldicutt changed her mind and has arranged for the matter to be put on Oxfordshire HOSC’s April 4 agenda.

It is understood NHSE will be asked to attend. Councillors may refer the matter to the Secretary of State for review, as they did for the Horton consultant-led maternity downgrade.

Mrs Higham said: ““I have engaged the interest of five Oxfordshire MPs; Keep Our NHS Public Oxfordshire have been enthusiastic; we have gained the involvement of my fellow locality (patient and public) forum chairs across the county so they can ensure they are clear what the potential risk to patient health is if this goes ahead.”

Oxford University Hospitals Trust (OUH) is forbidden to discuss the matter because it is involved in the procurement. It has been forced to direct questions to NHS England.

Director of Strategy, Kathy Hall told CPN members: “We are very grateful for the community interest and support for the service that we provide.”