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NHS trust rations chemotherapy to cancer patients who have the best chance of survival

NHS trust ‘on its last legs’ rations chemotherapy to cancer patients who have the best chance of survival

  • Hospitals are rationing chemotherapy to cancer patients due to staff shortages 
  • NHS Trust said it had to prioritise patients with the best chance of survival
  • Oncologist said they were unable to offer palliate chemo that aims to prolong life


Hospitals are having to ration chemotherapy to cancer patients with the best chance of survival.

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH), one of England’s largest, said staff shortages meant it had to deny treatment to some patients with advanced diagnoses.

It postponed treatment for 49 on Thursday as it had 30 per cent fewer specialist nurses than needed for a full service. 

Oncologist Dr Lucy Gossage wrote in a blog post: ‘Right now, we don’t have the staffing capacity to deliver chemotherapy to all our patients and so, for the first time, the prioritisation list has come into force.

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) are having to ration chemotherapy to cancer patients with the best chance of survival due to staff shortages (stock image)

‘We are unable to offer chemotherapy that aims to prolong life or palliate symptoms for people with advanced cancer. We hope that this is very temporary, but it’s indicative of a system on its last legs.

‘As oncologists, we’re not used to apologising for a broken system – and that is what we’re doing every day. This is not ok. Our patients are not ok. We are not ok.’

Last night, NUH said it was urgently trying to fill vacant posts and hoped to offer chemotherapy to all who needed it next month. 

A spokesman told The Daily Telegraph it would expect to ‘restart chemotherapy for all patients who require it in October’. 

The spokesman said vacancies and long-term staff sickness were contributing to the crisis, and that recruitment was ongoing.

Oncologist Dr Lucy Gossage wrote they were unable to offer chemotherapy that aims to prolong life or palliate symptoms (stock image)

Oncologist Dr Lucy Gossage wrote they were unable to offer chemotherapy that aims to prolong life or palliate symptoms (stock image)

‘We continue to provide chemotherapy to patients who benefit most from the treatment and the small number of patients affected have been contacted directly by their specialist cancer team and offered support,’ he said.

The warning follows a report predicting that even if oncology departments boost the number of patients they see by 5 per cent, the backlog will take more than a decade to clear. 

Experts believe 19,500 people are living with undiagnosed cancer because of the pandemic.

In March last year, NHS England authorised hospitals to ration cancer services to patients with the greatest chance of survival if the system became overwhelmed owing to Covid.

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