Doctors and MPs join opposition to Churchill Hospital 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

Doctors and MPs have joined the growing opposition to the planned privatisation of a crucial cancer scanner at the Churchill Hospital.

Banbury MP Victoria Prentis and Oxford East MP Annaliese Dodds have written to NHS England to make clear their concerns about giving the PET-CT-SCAN service, ran by the hospital trust, to a private firm.

In response to Ms Dodds’ letter on Twitter, an Oxford surgeon and an anonymous oncologist said the move would harm patient care and they were worried.

Senior consultant Nick Maynard said he fully supported Ms Dodds’ letter, adding: “If InHealth take over our PET CT service it will undoubtedly cause clinical harm to our patients. This cannot be allowed to proceed.”

He then wrote: “Let us be absolutely clear – if this goes ahead, it will lead to patient harm.”

While an account called ClinOncDoc wrote: “I am an oncology registrar at the Churchill and find this very worrying. We use PET CTs regularly to assess for hidden cancer or disease response.

“Privatisation if this vital service will only result in the detriment of care to my patients.”

People from across the Thames Valley are referred to the Churchill for its world-leading cancer treatments, which includes the state-of-the-art PET-CT scanners, procured by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

But the Banbury Guardian broke the news two weeks ago that NHS England has decided to give the contract for the PET-CT service to a firm called InHealth.

This has lead to a outcry from campaigners across the country as the firm would not be able to use the Churchill’s specially-designed accommodation nor the experts already on site, and the public was not consulted.

The contract has already been agreed but will not be finalised until the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee of Oxfordshire County Council has considered it on April 4.

Mrs Prentis’ expressed her dismay at the proposal and the lack of communication, both in her letter and to OUH chief executive Bruno Holthof.

Her letter to NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens says it will made it harder for different doctors who use the service to decide the best treatment for the patient.

Fellow MPs Layla Moran and Ed Vaizey have also expressed their concern about the changes, along with Mrs Prentis and Ms Dodds.

Ms Dodds’ letter reads: “The potential downgrading of this service stands in contradiction to the current emphasis on the better diagnosis of cancer in the UK.”

On Monday, members of the Community Partnership Network, a Banbury committee made up of representatives from the various health organisations, expressed alarm at the idea.

NHS England has said the procurement will be announced soon and InHealth has not responded to requests for comment, while OUH directs all queries to NHS England.