HEALTH Secretary Jeremy Hunt is being asked to allow NHS North West to spend an extra £900,000 a year to enable hundreds of cancer patients to be treated in South Lakeland.
Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron is urging Mr Hunt to approve the expenditure so the ‘final obstacle’ to a radiotherapy unit in Kendal can be removed.
The NHS is currently considering a joint bid by the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust and Royal Preston Hospital to establish a satellite cancer treatment unit at Westmorland General Hospital.
But Mr Farron said a ‘sticking point’ was how much extra the unit would cost compared to the cost of continuing treating patients at the main radiotherapy unit in Preston.
The MP, who met local and regional NHS commissioners to discuss the unit last Thursday, said he was left feeling ‘extremely positive’ about progress.
“The only sticking point is how much extra it would cost to run the radiotherapy unit at Westmorland General Hospital, which I’ve been told is around £900,000 a year,” he said.
“I’m now writing to Jeremy Hunt the Health Secretary to ask him to look at a delegation to spend arrangement which would allow NHS commissioners more flexibility on paying for cancer treatment so this last obstacle can be removed.”
The Westmorland Gazette’s Shorter Journeys Longer Lives campaign, which was launched in October 2011 in parallel with Mr Farron’s own radiotherapy campaign, has garnered local and national support for a specialist unit.
A petition with more than 12,000 signatures was handed over to NHS commissioners last year.
In March, more than 2,000 people paraded through Kendal to highlight the public’s support for the facility.
An estimated 500 patients from South Lakeland and Furness have to make up to a 140-mile round trip from this area to Preston to receive treatment for cancer.
Some have to make that long journey every day over an extended period at a time when they are ill, worried and suffering from some of the after effects of treatment.
One of South Lakeland’s leading doctors, Dr Hugh Reeve, has said that some of the area’s cancer sufferers are rejecting the life-enhancing treatment simply because they can not face the journey.
Cumbria and Lancashire NHS Collaborative Commissioning Board, comprising representatives from six NHS trusts, must now decide whether to give the go-ahead to the unit.