NHS 'needs to get a grip' in cancer centre redevelopment

Mount Vernon Cancer Centre

Mount Vernon Cancer Centre - Credit: Google Street View

New hospital campaigners have insisted that the NHS "needs to get a grip" when it comes to assessing the future of cancer services in Herts and beyond.

NHS England and NHS Improvement have been working to secure the future of Mount Vernon Cancer Centre (MVCC), which has been in need of repair for a number of years. NHS providers are on the hunt for more permanent solutions to ensure the longevity and quality of services provided by the centre, which serves Herts, Beds, Bucks and north London.

The NHS said in its report on the centre - Mount Vernon Cancer Centre Review - published earlier this year: "As people live longer, more people with cancer are also living with other illnesses or conditions which require treatment alongside their cancer treatment. This cannot be done at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre."

In a stakeholder strategic review update this month, NHS England and NHS Improvement revealed work has begun to explore the feasibility of moving the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre to Watford General Hospital site.

Although MVCC would continue to run separately from other hospital services, the proposed move to Watford - adjacent to the hospital - would boast benefits with certain key clinical services, as both MVCC and Watford General would function out of the same site.

Mount Vernon Cancer Centre

Mount Vernon Cancer Centre - Credit: Google Street View

It is hoped that the separate redevelopments of Mount Vernon and Watford General -  part of a wider West Herts NHS Trust refurbishment that includes St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead hospitals - will happen in the same timescale.

But community initiative The New Hospital Campaign (NHC), which is fighting for a new A&E hospital in west Hertfordshire, has now waded into the relocation of Mount Vernon: "Years of neglect have left its buildings in a poor state and care is hampered by the need to move patients to other hospitals if their condition deteriorates."

The campaign has raised concerns that the clinical team at MVCC will be split up to allow Watford to accommodate parts of Mount Vernon’s services, and questioned whether the Watford site is big enough to accommodate a relocated cancer centre.

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NHC's Edie Glatter said: "The NHS needs to get a grip if cancer services for north-west London and many other parts of the south east are to be protected and enhanced.

"It is fantastic news that MVCC might move to West Hertfordshire. There are all sorts of excellent reasons why the vital and highly-rated cancer treatment services provided by Mount Vernon should be located alongside an acute and emergency hospital in the area, which has been shown to offer the best travel times for patients and carers.

"But the site must be the right one. Now it looks as if the NHS wants to rush ahead with refurbishment of Watford General without properly thinking through the implications for Mount Vernon’s cancer services."

Edie added that some of Mount Vernon's services may eventually be "squeezed" on to the Watford General site, and noted the possible disruption this could cause to cancer services until the end of the decade, labelling it a "tragedy".

She continued that the alternative of a new hospital on a clear site is an attractive one: "A new acute emergency hospital for West Herts on a clear accessible site with close connections to all Mount Vernon’s services could be a great solution for cancer services in this vast region.

"But the NHS have rejected all new build new site options for West Herts hospital, despite an independent report showing that it would be quicker and better value than trying to make the best of the unsuitable site in west Watford," she added.

"The alternative of a new West Herts site for Mount Vernon and the acute hospital needs to be explored quickly if this great opportunity is not to be missed."

The NHS is currently exploring the impact of a potential move to the Watford site. 

To share your ideas and views on how the NHS can best review changes to Mount Vernon's services, and to find out more information about the proposed redevelopments, visit mvccreview.nhs.uk.