SWINDON’S local chemotherapy hub may have to cut treatments to the sickest patients because of a massive shortage of specialist nurses.

In a memo leaked to The Times, Churchill Hospital’s head of chemotherapy warned that treatments were being delayed and suggested that one solution to a staffing shortfall would be to cut the number of chemotherapy cycles offered to terminally ill patients.

Andrew Weaver blamed a 40 per cent shortage in specialist cancer nurses trained to give out the medication.

The shortages were attributed to the high costs of housing in Oxford.

Directors at the NHS trust that oversees Churchill Hospital sought to reassure patients.

In a statement, they said no decision had been made to delay or cut treatments.

"The internal email from Dr Andrew Weaver sets out some of the challenges facing our chemotherapy service, with his ideas for how to tackle these issues, and invites constructive comments and alternative proposals from other cancer doctors and clinical staff," a spokesman said.

"However, it does not represent a change to our formal policy for chemotherapy treatment. No such change has been agreed by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

“Any decision to change the approach to cancer treatment so significantly would require a thorough assessment of the potential impact on the quality and safety of treatment and care provided to cancer patients.”

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust currently provide cancer therapies to hundreds of patients in Swindon every year.

It is not yet known how this will be affected.

The trust is also expected to manage the new radiotherapy centre at the Marlborough Road hospital. Last month, it was announced that Swindon people have raised £2m towards the £2.9m target to kit out this new unit.

More follows.

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