Mount Vernon Cancer Centre proposals could include a satellite radiotherapy unit

The plans emerged at a meeting of Hertfordshire’s health scrutiny committee

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 4:25 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th March 2021, 4:26 pm

Health bosses are drawing-up plans for a radiotherapy facility to improve cancer treatment for patients living in the north of Hertfordshire and beyond, as part of a review of the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre.

Currently most cancer patients in Hertfordshire receive their treatment at the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, in Northwood.

But proposals are currently being developed that could relocate the cancer centre to a site adjoining Watford General Hospital, in Hertfordshire.

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And now it has emerged – at a meeting of Hertfordshire’s health scrutiny committee – that those proposals could include a further satellite radiotherapy unit elsewhere.

On Tuesday, March 16, Jessamy Kinghorn, head of partnerships and engagement for NHS England and NHS Improvement (East of England), told the committee that – even with a radiotherapy unit at Watford – there would be lengthy journeys for some patients.

And she particularly highlighted those travelling from the east and north of Hertfordshire and from Bedfordshire.

No exact location has been selected for the proposed satellite unit.

But Ms Kinghorn said the programme board has agreed it should be alongside an acute hospital, to enable service to provide largest range of radiotherapy treatments.

She said there was sufficient ‘activity’ for the unit to be based at either the Lister Hospital, in Stevenage, or the Luton and Dunstable Hospital.

And she said work was already underway to determine which was of the greatest benefit – with both hospitals having been invited to submit ‘expressions of interest’.

Among those to welcome the proposal at the meeting was county councillor Dave Hewitt (Cheshunt Central), who said he had campaigned for a satellite radiotherapy unit for many years.

Cllr Hewitt said: “My wife received very good radiotherapy at Mount Vernon – and it was very successful for which we are, of course, very grateful.

“I did get the opportunity to meet many patients travelling there – and they all praised the service that they got.

“But many had difficulties – not having cars or not having people who could run them there. So I welcome the possibility of satellite stations.”

During the meeting, Ms Kinghorn acknowledged that funding for the Mount Vernon proposals was ‘still a challenge’.

She acknowledged that was something that would need to be resolved before they could go out to public consultation, which she said was now ‘highly unlikely’ to be before the autumn.

Committee chair Cllr Seamus Quilty said: “Let’s not forget that at the moment there is no capital money available – so this could be a bit tricky. We could do an awful lot of work here and end up with nothing.”

During the meeting, Ms Kinghorn also outlined the continuing development of the existing Mount Vernon site, in Northwood – including the installation of a new linear accelerator, work to expand outpatient capacity and upgrades to the computer system in medical physics.

And assuring patients of the current service at Mount Vernon, in Northwood, she said “I think it's important that the committee is reassured that isn’t a case of abandoning everything and planning for a long term future.

“But there is actually a lot going on to make sure that services can still function properly on the site, despite some of the limitations of the current estate and the support facilities that are available.”