‘They kept me going’ – cancer patient’s plea over Hartlepool hospital plans

Barbara Watson, of Firby Close, Hartlepool, who is battling lung cancer  is angry about the planned changes to the cancer unit at Hartlepool Hospital.
Barbara Watson, of Firby Close, Hartlepool, who is battling lung cancer is angry about the planned changes to the cancer unit at Hartlepool Hospital.

A CANCER patient has urged health bosses to reconsider plans to make changes to a vital chemotherapy unit after claiming the staff there “kept me going”.

Barbara Watson, 66, is fighting her third battle with cancer after being diagnosed with lung cancer at the end of 2013.

She is a regular visitor to the day unit at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, and was shocked to hear that bosses at the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust were considering making changes which could see the nursing staff forced to apply for their own jobs in a cost-cutting measure.

Barbara, 66, said: “I cannot speak highly enough of the girls that work on that unit.

“As a team they are fantastic, and individually they treat you with so much care it is unbelievable.

“There was a fear that I might not make it through my treatment, but those girls kept me going.”

Barbara, who worked as a care assistant and then at the Marbourn factory, was diagnosed with breast cancer 24 years ago, and then suffered another cruel blow in 2011 when she was given the devastating news that she had lung cancer.

Having had half of her lung removed, the mum-of-three and grandmother-of-five was then told in 2013 that the lung cancer had returned.

She visited the cancer unit at the University Hospital of Hartlepool every two weeks for gruelling bouts of chemotherapy before finishing her treatment in may last year.

Barbara, who lives with 67-year-old husband David, of Firby Close, on the Central Estate, added: “You get to know these girls when you are a regular visitor.

“They talk to you, they put you at ease and nothing is a problem to them. There is someone there for you all of the time, and that is very important when you are having treatment.

“Whenever there is a problem, they sort it. They answer the questions, and if they can’t find an answer then they go and get you one.

“They put you first, and make you feel like the most important person in there.

“To even think about making cuts in that department is a sin.

“It is shocking what has happened to that hospital, and this is yet another disgrace.”

Bosses have confirmed workers are being “consulted” about how the unit is staffed, but moved to reassure patients the level of service would not be affected if and when any changes are made.

But Barbara fears the fact the unit is being looked at means it will only be a matter of time before changes are made.

She added: “Do the people who are making these decisions not think that we have enough problems going for treatment for cancer without worrying about if we are going to have to travel elsewhere for treatment?

“They should be doing more to keep the services that we have left at the hospital and make them better, not looking at ways to save money by making cuts.

“They have said before that there won’t be any more changes, but look at what we are left with now. It’s a perfectly good hospital with hardly anything in it.”

The chemotherapy unit won a special recognition award in the Mail’s Best of Health awards last year after winning the Team of the Year award in the four previous ceremonies.

It comes after the Mail launched the Bring Them Back campaign which has been more than 10,000 sign a petition calling for services to be returned to the town hospital.