Proposals have been floated to move a cancer centre to Watford General Hospital after its current location was previously judged “not fit for purpose”.

An upcoming public consultation over plans for the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre was discussed at a meeting of Herts County Council’s health scrutiny committee.

The cancer facility is currently attached to Mount Vernon Hospital in Northwood and provides cancer services to two million people across three regions.

Over 60 per cent of patients are from the East of England, with the remaining patients mostly coming from London and the South-East.

Councillors were shown a report prepared by Jessamy Kinghorn, head of partnerships and engagement at NHS England.

Addressing councillors during the meeting, Ms Kinghorn said: “The difficulty that the cancer centre has at the moment is that there is a big lack of other medical facilities at that site; there’s not critical care, there’s not high dependency, there’s no in-patients apart from the cancer beds.

“That has meant that patients with complex treatments have had to have these treatments elsewhere, or have had to be transferred if their condition has deteriorated.

Watford Observer: The Mount Vernon Cancer Centre's location was judged no fit for purpose in 2019.The Mount Vernon Cancer Centre's location was judged no fit for purpose in 2019.

“For a patient who also has a heart condition, for example, there are not the facilities on the Mount Vernon site,” she added. “There is not the expertise you would have with a cardiology department on the same site.

“That means that there are a lot of cancer patients that the consultants are responsible for who are in-patients in other hospitals.

“In Hertfordshire, in any one day, there are around 20 patients at Watford Hospital who are admitted because of symptoms associated with their cancer treatment. 

"Some of these will be directly going into Watford, while some of them will be transferred from Mount Vernon because they need the facilities that Watford has to offer.”

Ms Kinghorn said that a public consultation is likely to launch during this financial year seeking feedback over plans to move the centre to Watford.

She added: “If we have agreement that the long-term future for Mount Vernon is to locate it on the Watford site, then we could make some decisions around short-term improvements.

“So we are wanting to really progress discussions with Watford around those 20 patients that are on different wards in Watford Hospital. How can we better manage those patients to improve outcomes for them in the short-term?

Watford Observer: The cancer centre could move to Watford General with radiotherapy transferred to Luton or Stevenage.The cancer centre could move to Watford General with radiotherapy transferred to Luton or Stevenage.

“If we started to do that now, we’d be potentially pre-empting the outcome of the consultation.”

Following concerns about sustainability, a review was established in 2019 over the future of Mount Vernon Cancer Centre which judged its current location “not fit for purpose”.

As a result of this review, a decision was made to appoint University College London Hospitals as the preferred future provider to run the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre.

The service would continue to be managed by UCLH from the centre’s current location in Hillingdon during phase one of the the review, however it is expected to move to another acute hospital in time, most likely Watford

The report stated: “There was only one hospital site within the catchment that met all the criteria to host MVCC, out of nine sites considered.

“This preferred option is supported by all stakeholders (subject to public consultation) and would see the MVCC relocated to the Watford General Hospital site, with networked radiotherapy at either Luton or Stevenage.”

Vice chairman of the committee, Cllr Chris White said: “Looking at a map. I’m concerned the degree to which inhabitants of Broxbourne would have to travel if there were not something at Stevenage.

“What worries me about the next stage is communication, because we’ve had an awful lot of problems on the west of the county with misinformation, people arguing for the impossible.”

Cllr Nigel Bell added: “I’m sure the committee here will be in favour of the radiotherapy unit at Stevenage, and also, I think it’s really positive news about Mount Vernon and the public consultation, I’m sure we’ll do anything we can to help.”

Cllr Fiona Guest, of North Hertfordshire District Council, said: “The whole consultation process does seem very long-winded. Is there any way that could be speeded up for the consultation to be done in a more timely fashion?”

Ms Kinghorn responded: “There is a set process we have to follow or risk a legal challenge. That process is that we have to a pre-consultation business case, we have to have consultation documentation, various impact assessments, and so on. 

“Those are all quite far advanced.”