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Nottingham hospitals board advisor speaks of ‘incredibly challenging’ time as trust halts chemotherapy for some patients

A Nottingham University Hospitals board advisor has spoken about the ‘incredibly challenging’ time for the trust after a staff shortage meant chemotherapy was stopped for some cancer patients.

It emerged last week the shortage had led to medics having to decide which patients should continue to get the treatment and which should go without.

A spokesperson for the trust said it expects to restart chemotherapy for all patients who require it in October.

Tim Guyler, is Director of Integration and an advisor to the board, which runs Nottingham University Hospitals Trust (NUH). The organisation runs both Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre and City Hospital.

Mr Guyler spoke during a Nottingham City Council health and wellbeing meeting on September 29.

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Mr Guyler also acknowledged a recent inspectors’ report which led to the trust being rated as ‘requires improvement’.

He said: “It has been very difficult. We have been having to make the kind of decisions that frankly you would never want to have to make about access to limited resources, be it from a chemotherapy and cancer operations side of things.

“It has been incredibly tough.”

The problem was also documented by Nottingham Oncologist Dr Lucy Gossage, who wrote in a blog post last week: “Right now we don’t have the staffing capacity to deliver chemotherapy to all our patients and so, for the first time, the prioritisation list has come into force.

“And that means that, currently, we are unable to offer chemotherapy that aims to prolong life or palliate symptoms for many people with advanced cancer.

“I can’t imagine what it must be like to sit opposite your oncologist to be told that your treatment is being paused and we don’t know when we can restart it.

“But as oncologists, we’re not used to apologising for a broken system. And that, right now, is what we’re doing every day.”

In a separate serious challenge for the trust, a 90-page Care Quality Commission report published earlier this month highlighted a “disconnect between the board and the wider organisation” at NUH and criticised leadership at the trust. It also uncovered a “culture of bullying” which included some incidents of racial discrimination.

Mr Guyler said: “There is a very significant challenge in that we are not supporting the organisation in the way we need to. We have work to do on that.

“It’s never nice to have that kind of feedback but it is important to recognise it.

“There have been some very disappointing and hugely soul-searching stories to hear from our staff.

“It is unacceptable, as a leadership team we would never endorse that.

“We have had discussions with members of staff in the last week and will continue to do so.”

He added: “We are really pleased that through the review that we have had [from the commission], we have been scored outstanding from a caring perspective which is a great credit to all the staff.”

Following the restriction on chemotherapy for some patients, a spokesperson for NUH said last week: “It is with great regret that we have had to make a clinical decision to limit chemotherapy treatments for some patients as we currently do not have capacity to deliver a full chemotherapy service.

“We are deeply sorry for the concern and upset this has caused.

“The service has been impacted by long term staff sickness and staff vacancies.

“We continue to provide chemotherapy to patients who benefit most from the treatment and the small number of patients affected have been contacted directly by their specialist cancer team and offered support.

“We are recruiting to posts and continuing to progress a series of options which will deliver additional capacity outside of the Trust.

“We are making every effort to restart treatment for patients by working with other providers and have been able to restart treatment for some patients.”

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