Page last updated at 13:14 GMT, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 14:14 UK

Cancer services move 'is lawful'

Treatment is due to move to a new centre in Plymouth

A decision to move some cancer services from Cornwall to Devon without holding a full public consultation is not unlawful, Cornwall's NHS says.

Upper gastro-intestinal cancer surgery is to move to Plymouth next year.

Health campaigners said such a move was illegal without formal consultation with county residents.

The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) and NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly said that they were confident that they were acting within the law.

The law is the law
Graham Webster, Health Initiative for Cornwall

The plans to move services were approved by the Cornwall Council's Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee in April.

It followed advice by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust (PCT) that it would improve survival rates.

The committee also decided there would be no need for a public consultation on the move.

The plans have been fiercely opposed by some patient groups and doctors, who claim some patients will now have to travel three hours for treatment.

Campaigners also said that legal advice given to the former chief executive of the RCHT, John Watkinson, in August 2008 showed that the move without consultation was unlawful.

Graham Webster, vice chairman of the Health Initiative for Cornwall lobby group, said there was a legal duty for PCTs and hospital trusts to consult on proposals on transferring services under the National Health Service Act of 2006.

He said: "The law is the law. We believe the right thing to do know is for Cornwall Council to refer this to the secretary of state for health.

"In the meantime, the proposed transfer should be suspended."

'Best option'

Mr Watkinson was sacked in April after concerns about huge debts at Bromley Hospitals NHS Trust in London where he had formerly worked.

The RCHT and NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly said they had sought separate legal advice from that given to Mr Wilkinson.

They said: "The advice, which, unlike that gained last summer, is relevant in the context of the subsequent expert clinical review and engagement process undertaken in spring 2009."

Acting RCHT Chief Executive Peter Colough said: "This legal advice is unequivocal in its view that the Primary Care Trust has acted entirely appropriately and lawfully in determining the best option for the future delivery of upper GI cancer surgery services."

Cornwall Council said it could not comment because it and the scrutiny committee had not seen the August 2008 advice.

Treatment is due to move to a new centre at Derriford Hospital in January 2010.

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