Please note: The timescales for this project referred to on this website have been delayed by approximately six months to allow the doctors, nurses, therapists and managers involved to focus on responding to COVID-19.
The NHS in the East of England and in North London is working together to review the services at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre.
The Mount Vernon Cancer Centre is run by East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust and delivered from a site in North Middlesex managed by the Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. It is a standalone cancer centre and primarily serves a population of over two million people in Hertfordshire, south Bedfordshire, North West London and Berkshire. The patient pathways involve a large number of other hospitals and arrangements with several other NHS trusts. There is an extremely small number of patients who use the service from other parts of the country. The services are commissioned by NHS England’s Specialised Commissioning team and local Clinical Commissioning Groups.
The Centre provides outpatient chemotherapy, nuclear medicine, brachytherapy and haematology as well as radiotherapy for these populations. There are also inpatient and ambulatory wards.
We are working with the staff at Mount Vernon, with other local hospitals and commissioners, and with the local Cancer Alliances to look at how we can best meet the needs of local people, and develop options that will build on the services, research and patient experience the Centre already delivers.
Why do things need to change?
We want to organise services in ways that provide the best modern care for patients, including access to research trials and new technology and treatments, from good quality buildings and facilities.
Many of the buildings are not in a good state of repair, and concerns have been raised in relation to the long-term clinical sustainability of the Cancer Centre.
As well as ageing buildings, there are limited support facilities on site. For example, there are no high dependency or intensive care beds so patients who become very poorly are sent in an emergency ambulance to Watford General Hospital, or other nearby hospitals.
The limited support at the site creates challenges for the patients and staff, resulting in many patients receiving treatment in a number of different places because of this. As cancer treatment becomes more advanced and as demand for cancer treatment grows, this is becoming less sustainable for patients at Mount Vernon.
Some newer treatments and research trials have high levels of toxicity and while the benefits in treating cancer might be greater, there is more risk of side effects that require the right care. Without the support of services such as high dependency or intensive care, patients will not have access to the latest cancer treatments.
As people live longer, more people with cancer are also living with other illnesses or conditions that require treatment alongside their cancer treatment. This cannot be done at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre.
The staff at the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre have done a good job despite the conditions, in providing high quality treatment and ensuring patient safety. Patient survey feedback regularly shows that most patients are happy with the services they receive. However, everyone agrees that a more permanent solution needs to be found to ensure the sustainability of the services in the long term.
How will the review work?
The review started in May 2019. It is being led by a Programme Board chaired by the Regional Director of Specialised Commissioning and Health and Justice for the East of England. It has representatives from Healthwatch Hillingdon and Healthwatch Hertfordshire, London and East of England Cancer Alliances, local integrated care systems (ICSs) and a number of acute hospitals, including East and North Herts and Hillingdon Hospitals NHS trusts.
The first stage of the review is about developing gathering information of four parts:
- Reviewing data – for example, looking at where patients come from to Mount Vernon and which parts of their treatment they have elsewhere, what patient outcomes are like, travelling times for services such as radiotherapy
- Interviewing clinical staff and stakeholders – asking the staff who work at Mount Vernon and key stakeholders for their opinions on what the options should be
- Independent Clinical Review Panel – leading clinicians from other parts of the country accompanied by representatives of Healthwatch Hillingdon and Healthwatch Hertfordshire reviewing the suggestions of clinical staff, speaking to clinical staff and to patients, and visiting the site, before producing a report in July 2019 making recommendations on the long term options and any short term actions that need to be taken. These recommendations included appointing a specialist cancer hospital to run the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre services. This report was published on 25 July 2019 and is available below
- Patient and public engagement – analysis of existing patient feedback, and hearing patient views and ideas through public events, focus groups and a bespoke survey. Through July, August and early September 2019, patient and public workshops took place in Stevenage, Luton, Uxbridge, North London, Watford and at Mount Vernon. Structured interviews were held with representatives of some patient groups and a patient survey was available for all patients to complete. The patient feedback was analysed independently and the final engagement report is published below.
At the end of the first stage a decision was made to appoint University College London Hospitals as the preferred provider to run the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre. This is subject to a period of diligence, which will ensure the clinical and business implications are properly understood before a final commitment is made, and that East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust and University College Hospitals can have important discussions with staff whose contracts would transfer to University College London. Following this period of due diligence, the UCLH is expected to make a decision in April 2021, with the responsibility for the management of the services formally changing in April 2022.
This would mean that future Mount Vernon Cancer services will be provided by UCLH. This will be from the Mount Vernon site at least until a decision is made on the long term future of Mount Vernon Cancer Centre services. If changes are proposed in future, they will only take place after public consultation. There are no plans to move any patients to Central London unless they would need to go there anyway. In fact, UCLH would like to explore the possibility of some patients currently being treated in central London, being treated at Mount Vernon instead, if it was closer to where they live and if the right clinical facilities were available.
At the end of the first stage a decision was made to appoint University College London Hospitals to run the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre from April 2021. This will be subject to a period of diligence which will ensure the clinical and business implications are properly understood before a final commitment is made, and that East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust and University College Hospitals can have important discussions with staff whose contracts would transfer to University College London. This means that future Mount Vernon Cancer services will be provided by UCLH. This will be from the Mount Vernon site at least until a decision is made on the long term future of Mount Vernon Cancer Centre services. If changes are proposed in future, they will only take place after public consultation and will be designed to make access better for patients, not worse.
The next stage of the review is to develop options.
Work is underway with clinicians and patients on what the future services need to be in order to meet the needs of the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre population. This will build on the information gathered from patients and clinicians in the first stage. Patients and stakeholders, including local hospitals and Clinical Commissioning Groups, are involved in developing a range of options. These options will include maintaining services at, or near, the current Mount Vernon site. They will be evaluated on a range of criteria that patients have helped design, and include local access and interface with other services. We want to ensure people are fully involved in these options and will continue to involve patients and local people as we work on the options.
Timescale for decisions:
At the moment we anticipate developing options between now and April 2021. As part of this we are working with local ICSs, other providers and Cancer Alliances, to understand the needs of the large population Mount Vernon cancer services serve, any variations in outcomes, access issues and more, as well as working on the feasibility of potential options – for example, whether a potential site has the necessary clinical support available, and identifying the costs and how we will pay for the new building work. We will only shortlist options that are possible.
We expect to run a formal 12-week public consultation starting in June 2021. Only once the feedback from public consultation has been fully considered can a final decision be made. This would be around November 2021.
The independent clinical panel made some recommendations that will not require changes for patients and these have been made more quickly – for example, more staffing in some areas and changes to the admissions policy.
How you can get involved:
Visit the review website for more information and opportunities to get involved: https://mvccreview.nhs.uk/
Workshops and focus groups will be taking place regularly over the next few months, and a patient reference group will be helping ensure that the proposals are informed by the feedback from patients.
Independent Clinical Panel Report:
The Independent Clinical Panel Report (July 2019) was commissioned by NHS England to help inform the development of options for the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre services.
The current provider – East and North Herts NHS Trust, NHS England specialised commissioners and the rest of the Programme Board welcomed the report and its recommendations.
If you would like to find out more, or be added to the patient or stakeholder mailing lists, or invite us to attend a patient or community group meeting, you can email email@example.com.