Cancer patients living in Purbeck now face a longer journey to hospitals in Poole or Dorchester to receive treatment after the decision to close the chemotherapy clinic at Wareham Hospital.
The clinic, run by University Hospitals Dorset (UHD), is to stop on Friday 11th August 2023 following the retirement of the advanced nurse practitioner Nicky Hagger.
University Hospitals Dorset has run a much appreciated chemotherapy clinic at Wareham Hospital for many years
“Aware of how disappointing this news will be”
In a shock letter to patients, UHD cancer general manager Mandy Tanner wrote that the clinic, run at Wareham Hospital on Fridays and the associated blood clinic on Tuesdays had been:
“Temporarily withdrawn…due to changes within our staffing teams in the Cancer Care department.”
The letter continues:
“As a Trust we are aware of how disappointing this news will be to you and are working toward recruiting and updating our processes to re-start this service.”
While services have been withdrawn over the years from Wareham Hospital, it proved invaluable to the local community during the Covid pandemic
“Patients at their most vulnerable”
The news also came as a surprise to local GPs and to the Friends of Wareham Hospital, neither of whom had been consulted about the withdrawal of a crucial local clinic.
Chair of Friends of Wareham Hospital, Maggie Hardy found out about the decision by chance on social media and issued a statement on Friday 14th July 2023:
“The Friends of Wareham Hospital are saddened and disappointed to hear today that the chemotherapy clinic run by University Hospitals Dorset at Wareham Hospital is to close on 11th August when Nicky the advanced nurse practitioner retires.
“The Friends have promoted this valued clinic at every opportunity, funded some of the clinic set up costs and fundraised in the local community for clinic equipment so are surprised that our first knowledge of this closure was from a Facebook post yesterday from a past patient.
“UHD has indicated that it will work toward recruiting to replace Nicky but we are so sorry and sad that patients at their most vulnerable are losing this local clinic – even if we hope, in the short term. We have raised our concerns with UHD whilst also wishing Nicky a long and well deserved retirement. She will be greatly missed.”
The majority of cancer patients will now have to travel to Poole Hospital for treatment
It’s understood that originally there was meant to be two chemotherapy clinics, one at Swanage Hospital and a second in Wareham, however there was only the funding in the end for the one clinic in Wareham.
The closure of the Wareham clinic for the time being, means that more than 60 Purbeck patients from Swanage and the surrounding villages as well as those from Wareham, will have to make a much longer journey at a time when they are at their most vulnerable.
Chair of Swanage Hospital League of Friends, Deirdre Selwyn, who also found out via Facebook said:
“The closure, even temporary, of the Wareham outreach chemotherapy service is unacceptable as it will cause great anxiety for the patients who will have to travel to either Poole or Dorchester for their treatment, which may be several times a week.
“Our hope is that the recruitment process for a chemotherapy nurse specialist (CNS) to supervise this clinic will be expedited and that in the interim, consideration be given to the temporary transfer of an experienced CNS to the Wareham clinic to avoid additional anxiety for patients and their family at what is already an extremely stressful time.
“With an increasing number of patients receiving a diagnosis of cancer which is treatable with chemotherapy, I hope that consideration will once again be given to providing a second Purbeck clinic at Swanage Hospital.”
There was an original plan to offer chemotherapy at Swanage Hospital as well as Wareham, but now there will be no clinic in Purbeck at all
“More than disappointing, it’s devastating”
Now Maggie Hardy has written to the UHD chief executive Siobhan Harrington, the patient experience team and cancer general manager Mandy Tanner, to ask why this clinic is to be stopped without any consultation and at such short notice. In the email she writes:
“At such a vulnerable time for patients, who do not need or deserve the extra stress of a service being withdrawn, this is more than disappointing, it’s devastating.
“Purbeck patients have valued and value the local based service which has saved the need to travel to Poole for treatment and find parking places, and importantly they have been treated by a well respected team of professionals…
“As a past Purbeck NHS manager I cannot believe that the decision has only just been made to close the clinic and ask why prior planning did not prevent this situation which has caused concern and disappointment for so many people in the Purbeck area?”
The end of an outreach service as it is ‘consolidated’ at Poole Hospital
“Service is experiencing high levels of demand”
In response to a Swanage News enquiry, University Hospitals Dorset group medical director Daniel Webster has confirmed that the Wareham clinic has been put “on hold”.
He offered little hope for the reinstatement of the service anytime soon, and added that some of the tests associated with the treatment would be outsourced to Boots in Wareham. He said:
“Following retirement in the specialist oncology nursing team, we have had to take the difficult, but necessary, decision to consolidate the Wareham outreach cancer services on our Poole Hospital site.
“As a consequence, we are putting on hold chemotherapy treatment provided on the Wareham hospital site – however, some elements of the service will be accessed via Boots in Wareham which reduces the need to travel for those patients.
“All of our patients affected have been contacted personally by one of our senior nursing team to discuss options with them individually, with the aim of reinstating the Wareham clinic.
“We fully understand how important this service is to patients living in the Purbeck area and we are sorry to have to take this step.
“We will continue to review our staffing capacity to understand whether we will be able to reinstate the Wareham service in the future.
“Please be reassured that our priority continues to be the best level of care to our cancer patients – the service is experiencing high levels of demand and is an area of staffing shortages nationally, therefore this decision supports treatment for the maximum number of patients through centralising services in the short term while we recruit and train more staff.
“We appreciate how inconvenient this news to patients living in the Purbeck area, especially as the Wareham hospital clinic has been so well regarded by service users.
“We would like to reassure the public that our cancer support team will continue to provide families with the same level of care and support at Poole Hospital and encourage them to make contact with our team if they have any concerns.”