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Friday, March 12, 1999 Published at 00:32 GMT


Call for UK cancer centre

The centre would form a focal point for cancer research

The UK needs a national cancer centre if the highest standards in care are to be achieved, a leading specialist has said.

Professor Karol Sikora, Head of the World Health Organisation's cancer programme, called on the government to develop such a centre.

In a letter to the British Medical Journal on Friday, he said Britain was one of a handful of countries not to have a single focus for cancer research and teaching.

Such a centre could become reality if the private and public sectors pulled together, said Professor Sikora.

Move to centralisation

There is a general trend towards developing large specialist centres for the treatment of cancer in the UK.

On Thursday, Scottish Health Minister Sam Galbraith opened a £280,000 unit at Crosshouse Hospital in Kilmarnock.

The centre will combine oncology and clinical haematology services on one site, and will serve patients in Ayrshire and Arran.

It will benefit from the expertise of doctors from a wide range of specialties and is designed to improve cancer services by focussing a great deal of specialist talent in one centre.

[ image: Sam Galbraith: Opened new centre]
Sam Galbraith: Opened new centre
Mr Galbraith, a neurosurgeon by profession, endorsed the concept of centralised services.

He said: "This is a prime example of what can be achieved when clinical and nursing specialists from a wide range of disciplines pool their individual skills.

"By adopting a multidisciplinary approach to cancer services and the treatment and care of cancer patients, this unit will deliver modern care in a local setting."

Professor Sikora said a national centre could set the standards for the increasing number of units like the one at Crosshouse.

It would act as the "gold standard" of cancer care, he said.

"The centre would be a natural site to co-ordinate the new structure of cancer centres and units that is gradually building up throughout the United Kingdom.

"At a time when cancer treatment is likely to change owing to the impact of new molecular treatment strategies, the need for a leading institution has never been greater," he added.

London base

England's capital would be the ideal location for any such enterprise as it already has a wealth of talent and resources in the field of cancer treatment, Professor Sikora said.

[ image: Professor Sikora proposes London as the site of any centre]
Professor Sikora proposes London as the site of any centre
He cited London's hospitals and organisations such as the Institute of Cancer Research as examples of this.

"What is needed to bring this concept to fruition is political will and capital investment by the public and private sectors, jointly, to create a single site.

"This would defuse the usual interpersonal bickering that characterises hospital and university mergers."

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