Healthcare in Swindon has received a shot in the arm after NHS England announced that the proposed Radiotherapy Unit at the Great Western Hospital has finally been given the green light. And as doctors and patients across the town celebrated the news, healthcare bosses delivered more good news; announcing that Swindon’s overall long-term financial support was secure thanks to a major increase in funding.
The news comes after a sustained campaign by local MPs, Justin Tomlinson & Robert Buckland, and the Clinical Chair of Swindon's Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr. Peter Crouch.
As part of a joint venture between the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust and the Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group, a new Specialist Satellite Radiotherapy Unit at the Great Western Hospital has been approved. The £2.9million facility, set to open in late 2017, will mean that patients from Swindon and the surrounding area will in future be able to receive vital treatment in their own town without having to travel over an hour to the nearest Radiotherapy in Oxford. However in recent weeks, high-level discussions had to be re-opened after a further delay seeking final approval for the project from the NHS England Specialised Commissioning Team. Alongside the work of the Swindon CCG Clinical Chair, Swindon MPs Justin Tomlinson and Robert Buckland wrote to NHS England Chief Executive, Simon Stevens urging him to intervene and ensure the project got the go-ahead and Mr Stevens who subsequently visited GWH in December, reiterated his support for the project.
Confirmation of NHS England’s support has now been received meaning that a dedicated satellite radiotherapy unit is now definitely coming to Swindon.
Additionally, over the past three years both MPs and Dr. Crouch have pressed the Department of Health and NHS England to address the national funding formula for local health provision which led to Swindon receiving less than its fair share of support than areas of comparable size and deprivation, and to request that the budget period be increased from two years to five ensuring that future plans can be made with greater certainty.
Following a number of letters to the Chief Executive of NHS England, and discussions with the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, this week NHS England has announced that it will amend the funding formula, ending the historic injustice, and increase certainty by moving to five year budgets – a huge win for patients in Swindon.
Under the old system, Swindon CCG would have received an annual increase of £5-6 million a year. However under the new allocation formula, annual growth for Swindon instead ranges between £7million and £12million per annum. When the cumulative impact of the introduction of the new allocation formula is taken into consideration, instead of receiving an increase of £30 million between 2016 and 2021, the CCG will now receive an increase of around £44 million.
Overall, the change driven by the new formula represents an increase in cumulative investment in the Swindon CCG healthcare economy of £45 million over five years, with investment up from £82 million to £127 million.
The two announcements combined mean that by the end of the decade, cancer patients will be able to access a state of the art radiotherapy unit in Swindon and the NHS budget for the town over the period will rocket by more than half.
Justin Tomlinson MP said: “These announcements, coming in such a short space of time, are excellent news for patients across Swindon. Dr. Peter Crouch, Robert and I have long-fought for the change to funding formula and for a dedicated Radiotherapy Unit in Swindon. Through joint letters to the Chief Executive of NHS England and pressing Ministers, including the Health Secretary, for change, I am delighted that at a time of record investment in health under this Conservative government, we have been able to secure long-term stability, significantly increased funding & a new treatment provision which will benefit thousands of people across our town as they face up to the challenge of receiving their cancer treatments”.
Robert Buckland MP said: “For too long, cancer patients from Swindon have suffered the pain & discomfort of having to travel hundreds of miles every year in round-trips to Bristol & Oxford for treatment. Securing this new facility, right at the heart of the GWH, and delivering a five-year cumulative investment of £127 million means that patients in Swindon will benefit from both of these significant improvements. When Dr. Crouch first alerted us to the unfairness of the funding formula and the problems facing the delivery the Radiotherapy Unit, Justin and I were only too happy to offer all the assistance we could and I am delighted with these announcements".