East London NHS trust defends outsourcing breast cancer operations

East London NHS trust defends outsourcing breast cancer operations
Credit LDRS

An East London NHS trust has defended outsourcing hundreds of breast cancer operations to a private hospital on its grounds.

Last week, health campaigners criticised Barts Health NHS Trust for outsourcing nearly half of the 745 breast cancer operations to “trading charity” Nuffield Health.

Nuffield Health carried out the operations in a recently renovated wing of St Bartholomew’s Hospital in Smithfield, owned by Barts Health, which it has leased for the next 30 years.

A spokesperson for the NHS trust told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that Nuffield is only one of the “independent sector providers” it is using to reduce its waiting lists for routine operations.

They added: “Nuffield carried out breast cancer operations for us on 340 patients last year, using NHS surgeons, and the remainder of the treatment journey for those patients – from diagnosis to recovery – was at our NHS facilities.

“Over the same period St Bartholomew’s Hospital did 405 breast cancer operations and we treated more than 2,000 other patients for breast cancer at our hospitals.”

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The trust said the deal to lease Nuffield the “unused and dilapidated pathology building” at St Bartholomew’s – in a separate agreement to the breast cancer surgery – will bring in millions in income over the next three decades.

At a protest outside St Bartholomew’s last week (Thursday 4th), Rosamund Mykura from Newham Save Our NHS accused Barts Health of being “in cahoots” with Nuffield Health by outsourcing NHS treatment and leasing part of the hospital.

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Credit LDRS

She compared Nuffield Health to a “parasite” on an NHS site and questioned why its chief executive officer Steve Gray was paid £1.2m in 2021.

A spokesperson for Nuffield Health said: “Our hospital is independent from St Bartholomew’s Hospital, which is part of Barts Health NHS Trust.

“In line with our purpose to build a healthier nation and support the healthcare of people within our local communities, we are responding to the request from St Bartholomew’s Hospital to support some of their NHS patients who need breast care.”

Barts Health has five hospitals in East London and says it serves about one million patients in its “core” population.

All of the trust’s breast cancer surgery has been centralised at St Bartholomew’s, where Barts Charity is also fundraising to build a new dedicated centre for the disease.

Barts Health will continue to provide some of its breast cancer surgery at Nuffield Health’s private hospital site until it has fundraised enough to build a dedicated new centre.

The trust’s interim director of strategy Mark Turner has previously defended the “subcontracted arrangement”, arguing that private patients will not be able to “jump the queue” for surgery.

The Nuffield Health site, which opened in May last year, has 55 beds, seven intensive care beds, four “advanced operating theatres” and 28 consultation rooms.

It is part of the charity’s “health and wellbeing campus” in the area, giving patients access to private GPs, mental wellbeing services and a gym in the Barbican Centre.

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