13.03.19

MPs express ‘extreme concern’ at NHSE’s decision to hand cancer scan services to private firm

An MP has written to NHS England CEO Simon Stevens stating she is “extremely concerned” about the decision to take cancer screening services away from an Oxford hospital trust and hand it to a private firm.

Government and opposition MPs have protested the deal which doctors at the Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Trust have warned will “undoubtedly” cause clinical harm to patients.

NHS England decided to take the service away from the OUH trust’s Churchill Hospital despite its international reputation for cancer care, with private firm InHealth instead chosen to deliver the positron emission computerised tomography scanning (PET-CT) in the region.

Banbury MP Victoria Prentis has written to Simon Stevens stating that she is “very disappointed” at the contract change and has received a number of emails from constituents.

She said any potential change would have an adverse impact on the current extremely efficient PET-CT scan service, and said outsourcing the service could make it more difficult for clinicians to collaborate on the best course of treatment for each patient.

Prentis said she was “dismayed” that the decision had been taken with no prior consultation with Oxfordshire’s joint health overview and scrutiny committee (HOSC) and that there had been no communication to MPs.

Lib Dem MP Layla Moran and Conservative MP Ed Vaizey have also urged NHS England to halt its decision, with Moran commenting: “This is a concern that has been filling my postbag recently. This is no way to be treating vulnerable cancer patients.

She said: “I am deeply worried by the sheer scale of services being outsourced from our NHS and into private business,” adding that “NHS England’s insensitivity is a real cause for concern.”

Vaizey, the ex-Tory minister, said: “Whilst in principle I do not oppose competitive tendering for medical services I am concerned about the handling of this tender service by NHS England. Local patient groups have raised with me several potentially troubling issues with the new provider.”

Nick Maynard, a surgeon at OUH trust, tweeted his anger, saying: “If InHealth take over our PET-CT service it will undoubtedly cause clinical harm to our patients. This cannot be allowed to proceed.

“Let us be absolutely clear – if this goes ahead, it will lead to patient harm.”

HOSC is expected to discuss the controversial move next month and is able to refer the decision to the health secretary Matt Hancock if it sees fit.

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