VITAL cancer scans will continue to be run at the Churchill by its hospital trust but a private company has won its bid to launch a mobile service in the wider region.

NHS England has revealed an official agreement has now been reached between the government body, profit-driven InHealth and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH).

Consultants had raised fears over patient safety under initial plans to relocate PET-CT scans away from the hospital in Headington – a centre of excellence for cancer care.

But following a public backlash, those plans were scrapped in March and it was provisionally agreed to keep the world-class service at the Churchill.

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Professor Sir Jonathan Montgomery and Dr Bruno Holthof, chair and chief executive of the hospital trust, sent a joint message to staff today confirming this had now been officially approved and there would be 'no change' to the Oxfordshire service.

It said: "The support of many patients and members of the public who have contacted us, Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) and NHS England shows how much they value the current PET-CT service at the Churchill."

It said the trust had maintained an 'ongoing dialogue' with NHS England throughout he 'challenging' process, adding: “In May the trust board agreed seven tests that needed to be met before we could come to an agreement with NHS England in order to resolve the current contract situation.

“Following a number of discussions which involved both clinicians and senior managers, we are pleased that we have now reached an agreement with NHS England."

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The statement stressed there would be no change to the current PET-CT service, which would continue to be run by OUH and be directly accountable to NHS England.

New mobile scanners, however, will be based in Milton Keynes, Swindon and Reading provided by InHealth.

HOSC chairman Arash Fatemian hailed the agreement on twitter as a 'big win' for the committee and 'more importantly, health outcomes for the people of Oxfordshire'.

He added: "My thanks to all committee members for all the hard work you put in. An example of local govt at its best."

Following an appeal by OUH to the committee in April it had referred the decision to Health Secretary Matt Hancock for review, though he turned this down.

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While many have welcomed the formal agreement others fear it represents 'top-down privatisation' across the Thames Valley.

Bill McKeith, chairman of health campaign group Keep Our NHS Public, said: "We are disgusted to read the double-speak in the announcement. The so-called partnership is no such thing it is a top-down privatisation of our NHS.

"The announcement does not allay concerns about mobile scanners and communication between InHealth and NHS doctors and radiologists.

"We think substandard mobile scanners are not what is needed.

"We don't think they will speed up treatment for anybody. The announcement is an insult to the people of Oxfordshire whose Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee has challenged the whole basis of this privatisation."

This was echoed by co-chairs of Oxfordshire Socialist Association, councillors Dr Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini and Nadine Bely-Summers, who in a joint statement said it 'regrettable' that cancer patients in neighbouring counties might receive 'inferior and fragmented services' due to the 'continued privatisation' of the NHS by the government.

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Banbury MP Victoria Prentis, who along with Oxford East MP Anneliese Dodds and Abingdon and Oxford West representative Layla Mora wrote to the Health Secretary last month calling for him to look again at the plans, said she was was 'thrilled' the trust was retaining PET-CT services on the Churchill site.

She added: "Their consultants and staff are world-class so it was important that this vital service wasn’t moved away from OUHFT.”

Ms Moran, however, was less enthusiastic stating the agreement had been signed 'against the recommendations and concerns' of both a cross-party group of local MPs and HOSC.

The Lib Dem MP added: "The patient must come first, but the use of mobile scanners goes directly against previous NHS guidance.

"Their use will lead to a fragmented service for patients and will not deliver the best outcomes."

Ms Dodds said she was 'delighted' for Oxfordshire patients but said it was 'concerning' there would be changes to the service outside the county.