Cancer care cut due to staff shortages

Cancer care at an NHS specialist hospital is becoming ‘unsustainable’ because of staff shortages, its boss has said.

A leaked memo to Oxford’s Churchill Hospital staff, obtained by The Times, said chemotherapy cycles could be scrapped.

The memo from the head of chemotherapy Andrew Weaver says patients face delays as nurse numbers were roughly 40 per cent down.

A hospital trust spokesman stressed no decisions yet had been made that may affect treatment.

Weaver wrote the hospital did not have enough nurses trained to deal with medication at the hospital’s day treatment unit.

An Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spokesman told the BBC starting times were usually within four weeks, but understood the memo, which said starting times were delayed to four weeks, to mean they may have to be pushed back to the furthest limits of this time frame.

He said the hospital met the national cancer waiting time standard of starting chemotherapy within 31 days of a clinical decision having been made, despite an increase in cancer patient numbers.

But the memo also suggested cutting back on treatment to alleviate symptoms from six cycles to four.

Andrew Weaver wrote: “I know that many of us will find it difficult to accept these changes but the bottom line is that the current situation with limited numbers of staff is unsustainable.”