A MAJOR British hospital has told is vulnerable cancer patients they will have to find chemotherapy treatment elsewhere after too many of its specialist nurses quit.
Patients at King George hospital in Ilford, London will have to go elsewhere due to the nursing shortage at its cancer unit.
The Cedar Centre at the hospital will stop providing the vital service after four of its nurses quit and two others went on maternity leave.
It is thought to be the first time the NHS’s widespread staffing problems have led to a specialist cancer unit no longer being able to offer a vital service like chemotherapy.
The unit, which provides more than 500 patients a year with cancer treatment will close on November 12.
In future patients will have to go to Queen’s hospital in Romford instead.
Barking, Havering and Redbridge University hospitals NHS trust said it had been planning to centralise chemotherapy services in Romford, but had accelerated the plans when it found it could not replace the four nurses who are leaving.
The departures will reduce the number of cancer nurses working across both King George and Queen’s hospital sites delivering chemotherapy from 19 to 15.
Chris Bown, interim chief executive of Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospital Trust, said: “I can confirm we have had four resignations, alongside two members of staff on maternity leave.
“Chemotherapy nurses are highly specialised and nationally are a particularly hard to recruit staff group, so this is a big concern for us.
“Having reviewed the options, we have concluded that there is no solution available that will allow both the safe delivery of chemotherapy treatment at King George and that is acceptable from a patient experience perspective.
“We have therefore made the decision based on clinical safety grounds that we will centralise chemotherapy services at Queen’s Hospital from 12 November onwards, and no longer deliver treatment at King George.”
Macmillan Cancer Support said the move was “hugely concerning” and a sad example of the “extreme workforce pressure” at NHS cancer services.
“It is hugely concerning if a hospital is not able to recruit enough cancer nurse specialists”
It said cancer services are facing rising demand while recruitment and retention of nurses gets harder.
Moira Fraser-Pearce, Macmillan’s director of policy, told The Guardian: “It is hugely concerning if a hospital is not able to recruit enough cancer nurse specialists to feel it can safely provide patients with the treatment they need.”
Mike Gapes, MP for Ilford South said: “This is appalling news.
“It raises big concerns about the attitude of the new leadership of BHR Hospitals to the overall future of services at King George Hospital.”
Wes Streeting, MP for Ilford North said: “It is a worrying sign of the staffing crisis in the NHS that the local trust says it cannot safely operate the chemotherapy unit open at King George Hospital.
“This will mean longer travel times for vulnerable patients and concerns about stretched capacity. The Government must urgently get a grip on the staffing crisis in the NHS that has led to the shortage of key staff like chemotherapy nurses.”