In Part One of this blog, described features of the New Velindre leadership group up to Autumn 2020 resembling the social behaviour known as Groupthink.

What happened next?

The external response at the time was increased clinicians’ pressure against the plans alongside the progress of a popular petition to Senedd in the same strain. Consequently the ‘Nuffield Advice’ was arranged, a contract between Velindre Board and the Nuffield Trust, and announced October 1st.

Unfortunately the Nuffield advice was immediately peddled as an Independent Clinical Review – in particular on the website of the one Member of Senedd closest and most sympathetic to the New Velindre scheme, namely Julie Morgan MS for North Cardiff.

The myth gains traction

The myth now gained traction that Nuffield was the clinical review long missing from the New Velindre history. But in fact, Nuffield made clear it was not a review and was limited to addressing a narrow question, namely the risks and benefits of cancer satellite proposals. As a result Nuffield’s remit was neither allowed to consider any alternative underpinning model, or to consider if the Cancer Centre in particular would ever be ‘world class. 

The Velindre Team almost unilaterally considered this Nuffield Advice to be approval for its plans and direction of travel.

The clinical community mainly thought the opposite and that the leadership’s ’s role had taken a pounding in the Advice, and not just with regard to the ‘stand-alone’ approach. Later blogs on Co-locate Velindre will look closer at Nuffield and its aftermath.

The Senedd debates the issue

A short-notice debate in Senedd in March 2021 focused on the campaign petition mentioned above and an opposing one that got backing from Velindre Board. The opposing one secured a 4-1 majority of contributors, all belonging to the governing party.

However, the Debate mysteriously excluded at least one MS wanting to speak for the petition opposing the New Velindre project. Many who witnessed the debate described it variously as ‘one-sided’, ‘too brief’, ‘farcical’ and ‘a done deal’. The approval of the Minister of Health for New Velindre’s Outline Business Case, followed the next month (March 19th 2021). 

Senedd elections 2021

Shortly afterwards, the May 2021 Senedd Elections returned Mark Drakeford as First Minister of a further Welsh Labour Administration.  Eluned Morgan became the new Health Minister (replacing Vaughan Gething who attended the March 2021 Senedd debate) and, despite the overwhelming evidence, she concluded that the New Velindre build was urgently needed and had been debated enough. 

The fight continued

In June 2021, a clinicians’ comparison chart made an appearance in leaflets and at a demo outside the Senedd It challenged what campaigners saw as misinformation issuing from the New Velindre leadership. The chart displayed the features of a new award-winning Cancer Service in Clatterbridge, Liverpool based at an acute general hospital compared to the plans for the ‘stand-alone’ New Velindre. The stand-alone came out looking extremely poor in terms of value for money, quality of services available and opportunities for research and staff development. Among 11 significant comparisons, the planned New Velindre plainly fell well short of the ‘world class cancer services’ promised in its promotional material. To date there’s been no reply to the chart’s stark portrayal and implied evaluation of New Velindre. Instead dismay increased further about the Business Plan itself and its ensuing Enabling Works.  

The Co-Locate team then came into possession of information strongly suggesting the discussion should not be considered over just yet.  In particular, a renowned Professor of Clinical Oncology had earlier written a letter on behalf of seven eminent Professors in the Cancer field appointed to scrutinise the Wales Cancer Research Centre. One of the seven was even a member of the previously mentioned Nuffield Advice panel.  The Professors’ impressive and extensive letter expressed amazement that the nVCC build on the Northern Meadows was still going ahead.

This critical and devastating letter was written in November 2020 but only seeped into the clinical community in September 2021 causing profound shock. This almost brings us up to date and the present position. There is now a sense of urgency and concern, given that enabling works for the nVCC are scheduled to start before the end of 2021 (though the plans to start building the nVCC itself will not start until 2024).  

Co-locate Velindre

Co-locate Velindre has come into being late in the day, partly because of the ongoing difficulties many have encountered in knowing about and accessing information to challenge the New Velindre juggernaut.  Many have a sense of being marginalised by the knowledge famine and even of being demonised as somehow ‘anti-cancer care’. Yet others sense they are being utterly misinformed about the allegedly ‘true benefits of stand-alone services’ as described by New Velindre managers in its publicity.  Co-locate believes, therefore, that it still has a role to play. Its task includes seeking to change the minds of those who could, if set free from ‘groupthink’, think differently about best cancer care. Colocate’s message to the Velindre leadership therefore is: don’t groupthink, but instead rethink to avoid an approaching cancer care tragedy.