Health chiefs have admitted they are ‘struggling’ to provide services for cancer patients in Pembrokeshire.
The difficulty, which hinges on recruitment, is apparently common to every health board in south Wales.
One oncologist’s weekly Withybush clinics are now being held fortnightly. On other weeks, patients have to travel to see him in Prince Philip Hospital, Llanelli - where his clinic staff from Withybush also make the journey to provide continuing care.
A Pembrokeshire clergyman who is undergoing cancer treatment has described the move as ‘yet another nail in the Withybush coffin with regard to the long-term future of both Ward 10 and the chemotherapy day unit'.
The Rev David Hammon, who has already fought oesophageal cancer, is now receiving treatment for a lung tumour.
He said this week: “I was told that my oncologist, Dr Vigneswaran, had been ‘told’ to transfer two of his four monthly Withybush clinics to Llanelli.
“At the encouragement of the medical staff at Withybush, I wrote to the health boards of Hywel Dda and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg complaining. ABM replied, saying they were ‘looking into it’. Hywel Dda have not even replied.”
The Rev Hammon, aged 65, who is priest in charge of Lampeter Velfrey, added: “I have had the most wonderful treatment from everyone - Narberth surgery, Withybush, Glangwili and Singleton hospitals. But I am now extremely concerned both as a patient and as a parish priest, who wonders just how his parishioners will manage to cope with journeys to Llanelli for oncology clinics. Oncology clinics are, I can assure you, extremely stressful occasions, even the most routine ones, without having to travel all the way to Llanelli for them - a round trip of over 120 miles for some Pembrokeshire residents."
The Pembrokeshire local committee of the Hywel Dda Community Health Council was told on Thursday that Dr Vigneswaran wanted to reduce the number of sessions he provided in Pembrokeshire, while another oncologist, Dr Moe, was also not attending as frequently.
“We recognise there is a real struggle around oncology services,” said Hywel Dda’s associate director of clinical services, Dr Sian Lewis.
A meeting to look at cancer services within the three counties reported that the service in Withybush was ‘under immense strain’ with outpatient appointments capped.
The appointment of an oncologist to work with both the Hywel Dda LHB and the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg LHB has been agreed in a bid to solve the matter.
At the CHC meeting, chairman Tony Wales requested weekly updates of the issue, while CHC chief officer, Ashley Warlow, commented: “This paints a picture of things slipping. We seem to be reneging on our promises to deliver cancer care closer to patients’ homes.”