This conversation is fictitious. But free of alternative facts.

‘North Cardiff doesn’t know it. Cancer patients don’t know it. Many cancer clinicians throughout Wales don’t know it. Even you, a rookie reporter, don’t know it. ‘

Uh? Know what’?

‘How the New Velindre Cancer Centre became destined for the wrong location. We should run the story at the weekend. People just don’t know that the Minister of Health, around 2015, instructed the Velindre Board to build its new Cancer Centre on a ‘stand-alone’ site. You know, not at a big hospital (1).’

‘So who exactly did that, and do they-‘

‘He’s First Minister now. He’s the one who did it. That’s where it all started.’

‘Brave of him. Even I know that building a new Cancer Centre at a distance is, well, antique. And shouldn’t those things be decided by external reviews?’

‘There you go. But no. The Velindre Board got its orders at the start- the Centre had to be built in Whitchurch on Velindre land or it wouldn’t get the money. And so the New Velindre was born- the only main Cancer Centre in Wales behind the times. The only one not safely tucked in at a big hospital. And so the preferred Welsh practice of new Cancer Centres is set aside by politicians, it seems.’

‘Wow, now that is a bit of a mystery, and I really can’t-‘

‘And something else. Velindre’s own Strategic Outline Programme at the time didn’t help. No evidence of any survey of the region’s many senior doctors before they started. Clinical meetings and discussions all done at Velindre (2).

‘But doesn’t Velindre treat only a small share of cancer patients in the region? Wider soundings needed out there about the best location, no? We clapped them all.’

‘Damned right, we did. But then again. think about it. Welsh Government isn’t fussed that there’s been no external, independent clinical review. The Minister himself did the wrap-up on the matter of best location. And- no disrespect intended- he opted for the obsolete kind.’

But he’s such a very bright person- especially in politics, finance, all that stuff. Yet taking a key clinical decision upon himself? Ah, wait, not a mad moment because-‘

‘Right, because Government’s still saying that an independent external clinical review really isn’t a big deal. Not needed in fact. I’ve got emails.’

‘Gulp. Not needed for a Cancer Centre! Is that going down well, then?’

‘As much as being aloof to the array of leading senior clinicians in the region. But never mind, assuring us warmly it would be impartially considered. By the way, what you got on those impartial ones for me now?’

‘Took some digging out, I’ll tell you. Well, it’s not awash with clinicians, except for the CMO occasionally. It’s no clinical review. More a Board of Officers in the service of the First Minister and Cabinet. Finance, Human Resources, alignment with policy and that kind of thing. Senior Officers in Welsh Government. Always fine people on the ‘Infrastructure Investment Board’ I’m told?’

‘Of course. But, to be fair, you couldn’t really expect any of them to beg credit for getting a Government Minister’s clinical decision scrutinised by a hoity toity, expert, independent clinical panel, eh?’

‘Well, I suppose that mystery is cleared up. Sort of.’

‘It’s just the start. So now for all the coincidences you should do a deep dive for-oh, er, I think that ping was for you.’

‘Sorry, boss have to take it.’

‘We’ll want to run the next part past the subs too. But we’ll digest first. Very, very slowly.

Sandfly

(to be continued)

Sources

  1. Velindre NHS Trust Transforming Cancer Services Programme Business Case: Economic Section 1.2 p E4 of E43 http://www.transformingcancerservices.wales/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Confidential-Programme-Business-Case-for-Transforming-Cancer-Services-MARK-UP_Redacted-FINAL.pdf
  2. Velindre NHS Trust Transforming Cancer Services Strategic Outline Programme Economic Case p137, Section 3.9.3 http://Strategic-Outline-Programme-Redacted.pdf (transformingcancerservices.wales)