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Sunday 27th May 2018

Not enough surgeons for cancer ops

14th October 2008

Data collected by the Department of Health has shown that 10% of hospital trusts in England and Wales have a shortfall of the number of specialists needed to carry out gullet cancer operations.


The DH stated that there should be "a minimum of three surgeons" available to offer 24-hour treatment for patients suffering from the cancer. They set a target for all trusts to provide this number by December 2007.

Around 13,500 patients receive a diagnosis of oesophageal or stomach cancer every year. It comes fifth on the list of the most common cancers in England and Wales.

The cancer needs to be treated with major surgery and requires specialist surgical treatment.

Richard Hardwick, consultant surgeon and lead clinician for upper gastrointestinal cancer for the Association of Upper GI Surgeons (AUGIS), said: "If you are going to provide a comprehensive service it is almost impossible to do with two surgeons."

"Three specialist surgeons is the absolute bare requirement. Otherwise you are getting by on a wing and a prayer."

He added that patients who had operations for gullet cancer required constant monitoring by specialists.

The National Audit - carried out by the Royal College of Surgeons, AUGIS, the British Society of Gastroenterology and the NHS Information Centre for health and social care - found in September 2007 that 39 out of 63 trusts who carried out gullet cancer operations had less than three surgeons.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "We are working with trusts to help them comply."


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