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'Wide Intention And Desire' For Jersey Radiotherapy Unit

Jersey patients who need radiotherapy have to travel to Southampton.

The Health Minister says there is a 'wide intention and desire' to have a radiotherapy unit in Jersey, as long as it's affordable and safe to do so.

Jersey patients currently have to travel to Southampton for treatment.

A petition to have a radiotherapy unit included in the new hospital has been signed by nearly 2,500 people.

Deputy Richard Renouf says a full business case will be commissioned after Christmas to give more certainty on the costs and operational need of running the service here.

"The pre-feasibility study highlights the better patient experience that would result, the better quality of life perhaps resulting from not having to travel away, and economic impacts which are favourable by people not being away from their work and away from their families or family members having to be in Southampton with the person receiving treatment.

"There are also other patients in Jersey who choose not to travel for their radiotherapy, and there is the possibility of offering radiotherapy for patients who are having palliative care, you would not expect them at the moment to be travelling off-island.

"That is another cohort of people who might benefit from on-island radiotherapy."

The Health Minister estimates that around 150 people travel there from Jersey every year.

In a Freedom of Information request published in May 2021, it was revealed that 603 people had travelled to Southampton for radiotherapy over the previous three years.

That works out at an average of 201 people per year.

That cost a total of £421,000 for travel and £416,000 for accommodation for patients and family.

The government said at the time that Jersey does not have a big enough population for a radiotherapy unit, as guidance is a population size that advises 1 unit per 180,000 people.

The online petition was set up by Jersey mum Rose Shepherd, who went to Southampton twice for radiotherapy.

She said that she found the travelling back and forth 'incredibly tough' and that incorporating a radiotherapy unit into the new hospital campus at Overdale was the 'perfect opportunity'.

Deputy Kevin Pamplin, a member of the Health and Social Security Panel who questioned the Health Minister, asked whether an opportunity was missed to include a radiotherapy unit in the new hospital.

"Well, that could be investigated, but I don't want to delay the building or planning of the new hospital by trying to insert another service.

"We'll discuss whether that is feasible, but it is also a service that could be delivered in an ancillary building on the site or off site close-by, because it's primarily an outpatient service."

Medical Director Dr. Patrick Armstrong says if the island were to have a radiotherapy unit, they'd have to make sure treatment would be safe, of high quality, and as good as it is anywhere else.

He warned that there are problems to overcome.

"There are significant challenges in terms of maintaining skills on-island to run this service, it's complex treatment.

"We also need to consider the resilience of the service. It's not like other conditions where say for example, we're unable to provide it for a patient on a particular day, you can't just go somewhere else and get that treatment or the equipment is calibrated in a particular way and you can't just transfer from one unit to another.

"What would happen if our equipment failed here, what would we do?"

Deputy Montfort Tadier has spoken to Mrs Shepherd, the author of the petition, and could bring a proposition to the States Assembly.

Deputy Renouf says he wants to find a way to respond to States members and provide an update on whether a unit could be coming to Jersey 'soon'.

"I will update States members, but I haven't actually finalised a plan of exactly how to.

"Deputy Tadier has spoken about bringing a proposition, which might be my opportunity, but I will firm up with him whether that remains his intention and if it's not, there will be another way in which I will report back."

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