Page last updated at 16:06 GMT, Thursday, 10 December 2009

Burnham to study cancer unit move

Treatment was due to move to a new centre in Plymouth

A decision to move some cancer surgery from Cornwall to Plymouth's Derriford Hospital has been referred to the health secretary Andy Burnham.

All upper gastro-intestinal cancer surgery was to move from the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro in January.

Cornwall councillors, who approved the plan in April, said they had not been given all the necessary evidence to show why the move was needed.

Health bosses said treatment would not be affected in the meantime.

We will not allow any patients to be delayed or have any detriment to their treatment
Dr Alex Mayer, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust

The council's health scrutiny committee was told by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust (PCT) that specialist cancer teams working at Derriford would improve survival rates.

However, at a special meeting of the scrutiny committee on Thursday, councillors voted 11 to four in favour of a motion to ask the health secretary to examine the move.

The plans have been fiercely opposed by some Cornish patient groups and doctors, who say some patients would have to travel three hours for treatment.

Dr Alex Mayer, medical director Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, said although the plans meant surgery would be at a specialist centre, much of their post-operative care would be carried out at local hospitals, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

He added that procedures already booked would still go ahead.

He said: "It's very important that patients that are already scheduled to have their surgery have it as planned.

"We will not allow any patients to be delayed or have any detriment to their treatment because of this decision."

A similar proposal to move upper GI surgery from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital to Derriford has already prompted Devon councillors to refer that decision to central government.

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