Shropshire has one of the largest colorectal cancer units in the country – and the service could grow even further if plans to transform health facilities in the county go ahead, surgeons vowed today.
A total of 936 planned Colorectal Cancer operations for potential cure were carried out in the past five years at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH) according to data from The Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland. Only nine other units carried out more procedures during this time.
Mr Trevor Hunt, Senior Consultant Colorectal Surgeon at RSH, who was the first specialist colorectal surgeon to be employed at the hospital in 1994, said: “We see a large number of patients with colorectal cancer referred from Shropshire and Powys, and I’m pleased to say that overall their outcomes are good.
“This is contributed to by the fact that we consolidated colorectal surgery on one site over 12 years ago. Having the services on one site is good for our patients as we can offer more specialised services. This contributes to services staying in the county and enables us to continue to recruit the best surgeons.
“We started the service with just three Colorectal Surgeons and we now have eight and are seen as one of the biggest units in the country for the number of procedures we carry out and for positive outcomes for our patients.”
Over the years the service has grown and not only have the numbers of surgeons grown, but there is now a lot of interest from trainee Colorectal Surgeons who want to complete part of their training in Shropshire.
“Many senior trainees want to spend time with us before they qualify because of the reputation we have as a unit, and they are particularly seeking training in laparoscopic surgery,” added Mr Hunt.
“Laparoscopic surgery, also known as keyhole surgery, allows us to access the abdomen and pelvis without making large incisions. We currently have three trainees who are with us because of our reputation for this as well as our broader reputation for colorectal cancer surgery. Senior trainees also learn colonoscopy here, a procedure which allows us to look at the inside of the large bowel.
“This is great news for the county as we’re seen as one of the best places in the country for these procedures and it means we’re helping to train the next generation of Colorectal Surgeons.”
Mr Hunt says Colorectal Surgery is a great example of the benefits of consolidating services on one site, which is what is proposed for some other services in the Sustainable Services Programme which is being developed by The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, which runs RSH and the Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) in Telford.
“Our team demonstrates the benefits of consolidating services on one site as it has helped our service to grow, led to better outcomes for our patients, seen us able to provide more specialised services such as the development of a pelvic floor service, and ultimately led to a better experience for our patients,” said Mr Hunt.
“The Sustainable Services Programme provides an excellent opportunity to help improve other services in the same way and for our service it also provides an opportunity for us to grow further and treat and care for even more patients in the county.”
Patients and staff have also shared their experiences of the service and how they feel the Sustainable Services Programme could bring further benefits.
Julie Powell, 49, a Colorectal Nurse Specialist at SaTH who lives in Shrewsbury, was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer eight years ago and knows how important changes to the service have been. She said: “It was difficult to see how the colorectal service would work when it was amalgamated over 12 years ago; however, it has proven to be a successful move.
“The service has since developed and the team comprises of experienced, dedicated and motivated consultants, clinical nurse specialists , theatre staff and nurses on the surgical wards – all of which help in providing a safe and sustainable service for our patients for the future.
“Although colorectal surgery is performed at Shrewsbury, patients where possible have their routine follow up appointments at their local hospital, either RSH or PRH.”
Les McCrory, 61, of Marchamley Wood near Hodnet, was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer in 2014. He said: “A period of about 18 months was difficult, at times it was terribly hard for my family and I, but the care I received was incredible throughout. Without being under the people I was under at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital I wouldn’t be alive today, and that is why I nominated Paula Brayford, my Colorectal Clinical Nurse Specialist, for the Gary Logue Colorectal Nurse Award from the charity Beating Bowel Cancer. Frankly though, if I could have nominated the whole team I would have done.
“I’ve seen first-hand the benefits of bringing services together on one site. I had surgery at Shrewsbury, and was then treated on a Shrewsbury ward. This was supported by community satellite services, where I’ve been able to receive follow-up care closer to my home.
“The care throughout has been excellent and it is so much better for patients if they can have their treatment and follow-up in the same hospital, and then be supported by community services once they’re discharged, rather than having to travel between hospitals. I can’t thank the staff who cared for me enough.”