Trade union Unison has managed to put the closure of a major cancer unit on hold – keeping, for the time being, a vital treatment centre run which serves over a million people.
Staff there had been told in the middle of February that the Chartwell Unit at Princess Royal University Hospital in Orpington, Bromley, was to transfer to King’s College Hospital on 1 April, and have been fighting to keep it ever since.
The Chartwell Unit is entirely funded by the public and replies on donations. It diagnoses and treats a wide range of cancers, including colorectal, skin, breast, ovarian, blood and lung. Its 12-bedded ward attached to an out-patients suite provides breast cancer screening, chemotherapy and palliative care.
The highly skilled nurses who run the unit were originally told that if did not wish to transfer they would be either unemployed or could apply for an ordinary ward-based position at the Princess Royal.
A large number of the nurses contacted Unison for help and support, saying they did not wish to move hospitals or work on medical wards – they wanted to do the job they had trained for many years in the permanent place they had been employed to work. The nursing team are trained to address symptoms, control and pain relief without the referral from a hospital doctor.
Unison has been able to stop this closure for the time being as King’s College Hospital did not follow any of its policies and failed to consult the nurses. The struggle continues.