Banbury and Oxford MPs welcome 'climbdown' over advanced cancer scan service privatisation

A PET-CT scanner. The OUH has two for use in its world renowned research and treatment service. Picture by Getty Images
A PET-CT scanner. The OUH has two for use in its world renowned research and treatment service. Picture by Getty Images

Banbury MP Victoria Prentis and Oxford East MP Anneliese Dodds have welcomed news that Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust (OUH) has retained a contract for the PET-CT scanning service.

Earlier this year, the profit-seeking company InHealth was made preferred bidder for PET-CT services in Oxfordshire and the Thames Valley leading to a number of concerns and widespread campaigning over the privatisation.

The Banbury Guardian has reported at every stage, describing huge efforts by campaigners (including top clinicians), to prevent the contract for a world renowned research and treatment service being given to the private sector.

Victoria Prentis, along with Mrs Dodds, campaigned to retain services at the Churchill hospital, ensuring they continued to be run by OUH’s world-class staff.

Today (Tuesday) Mrs Prentis said: "I’m thrilled OUH are retaining PET-CT services on the Churchill site. Their consultants and staff are world-class so it was important that this vital service wasn’t moved away from OUH.

"The Oxfordshire Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC), chaired by Cllr Fatemian, worked very hard to maintain local services and lead the campaign against proposals."

Alongside the Churchill, new scanning facilities will be based in Milton Keynes, Swindon and Reading provided by InHealth.

The Oxford East MP described the change of heart by NHS England (NHSE) as an 'apparent climbdown' over an intended privatisation.

After being alerted to the proposed privatisation of the service by concerned staff and patients, Mrs Dodds campaigned doggedly against it. She wrote a number of times to the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England and lobbied officials from OUH and NHSE and Health Ministers in person a number of times. She also raised the privatisation in Parliament a number of times.

Mrs Dodds said: “I’m delighted to see that the Churchill’s excellent PET-CT cancer scanning service will not be privatised. As I’ve said time and again, there is no justification for profit being made from this service. While it is concerning that there will be changes to the service outside Oxfordshire, at least in our county patients will still be treated by NHS staff, with benefits from the service and research undertaken within it all accruing to our own NHS and not a private company”.

An impasse had occurred because NHSE wished to give InHealth the full contract. However it was not considered safe to relocate the scanners outside the Churchill and OUH specialists did not want to work under InHealth's direction.

A 'partnership' was mooted but this would have meant OUH doing the vast majority of the work as subcontracters of a private company receiving the profits.

The Banbury Guardian understands the new agreement involves two separate contracts – one with OUH and one with InHealth. This will necessitate an overarching collaboration agreement requiring both parties to work together to ensure the overall PET/CT service for the Thames Valley (Lot 4) is coordinated and coherent.

Mrs Prentis's office said NHS England, InHealth and OUH are working to a common set of principles which include the need to maintain specialist clinical pathways. The decisions about cancer pathways will be clinically driven and involve OUH clinicians and the clinicians from the hospitals in Milton Keynes, Reading and Swindon. The Thames Valley Cancer Alliance will be able to support these discussions.