Petition to reopen cancer treatment centre in Bedlington gets enough support to force a government response

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A petition calling for a mothballed cancer centre in Bedlington to be brought back into use has reached the amount of signatures required to force the government to respond.

The petition to reopen Rutherford Cancer Centre North East on Parliament’s official petitions website was started by Professor Karol Sikora, the former medical director of the now-defunct centre operator Rutherford Health.

He is calling on the Department of Health and Social Care to do more to get the cutting-edge £32m facility, and two others previously owned by Rutherford, back up and running to slash NHS cancer treatment waiting times.

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The petition has over 13,000 signatures, well beyond the 10,000 required to force the government to respond, with 100,000 required to force a debate in Parliament on the issue.

Professor Karol Sikora is an expert in oncology and the former medical director of Rutherford Health. (Photo by Karol Sikora)Professor Karol Sikora is an expert in oncology and the former medical director of Rutherford Health. (Photo by Karol Sikora)
Professor Karol Sikora is an expert in oncology and the former medical director of Rutherford Health. (Photo by Karol Sikora)

Professor Sikora said: "To reach the threshold in just a few days is a fantastic achievement and demonstrates the strength of public feeling on this national scandal.

“When thousands of patients are suffering excruciating delays, we have three of the most advanced centres I have ever seen just rotting away.

“It is utter lunacy and nobody can explain why both the NHS and the government are refusing to act.”

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The facilities are currently owned by investment firm Equitix but have been unused since June 2022.

When it was open, it offered recently developed proton beam therapy (PBT) among other cancer treatments.

The Department of Health previously told the Northumberland Gazette that the site does not meet the NHS PBT requirements, but Professor Sikora says the technology is among the “most advanced and expensive” available.

He added that scanners, chemotherapy suites, and radiotherapy equipment are also sitting unused.

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The professor said: “If the current situation continues, the centres will remain gathering dust well into 2024 and beyond.

“The life years lost to cancer in the UK will greatly exceed that of Covid by the end of this decade.

“That is simply unacceptable. Hopefully this petition will push the government to at least explore the possibility of using these wonderful facilities for the public good."

Professor Sikora previously wrote an open letter to Equitix, NHS England, and the Department of Health to call for a meeting to discuss use of the facilities.

You can sign the petition at petition.parliament.uk/petitions/644753.