Statement on Velindre Cancer Centre Proposals

In relation to the proposed new Velindre Cancer Centre, an independent review would examine the clinical model in respects to whether a stand alone cancer centre is in the best interests of patient safety. Following concerns raised by clinicians I support calls for an independent review.

As a politician it is right and expected that I share my views on areas of importance and concern to our Community. It is right that those views are questioned and critiqued by those interested. For the avoidance of doubt, the content below represent my views in respects to the Velindre Cancer Centre. To assist me I have considered various documents including the Nuffield Trust advice in order to inform me on these proposals.

The decision regarding the proposed Velindre Cancer Centre is controversial. There are two areas of concern, firstly environmental and secondly, questions over the clinical model. I will address these areas in turn.

Environmental concerns have been raised in respects to the development of the new Velindre Cancer Centre on land known as ‘The Northern Meadows’. These concerns were put before the Council’s Planning Committee at various stages and the Planning Committee voted in favour of the various planning applications regarding the development of the Velindre Cancer Centre at the Northern Meadows. For my part I considered the legitimate concerns of residents, seeking to protect the Northern Meadows from development, to be reasonable. However I respect the decision of the Planning Committee. It is now for the Health Minister to consider those environmental concerns.

The questions over the clinical model are of great concern. I read with concern a letter signed by 163 senior clinicians, questioning the wisdom of building a stand alone cancer centre. The clinicians’ letter highlighted the areas of concern raised by the Nuffield Trust in respects to the suitability of a stand alone model. In a crux, it appears that all new cancer centres are being co-located at major hospital sites. This is to ensure enhanced patient care and safety, should patients from a cancer centre require urgent transfer to a major hospital setting. It is for this reason I support an independent clinical review into the proposals. The review would be independent from Welsh Government and Velindre Cancer Centre. 

For the avoidance of doubt, my views do not ‘ride roughshod over cancer patients’, as stated by an organiser of the Support Velindre Campaign. I sincerely believe the vast majority of those supporting the proposals are reasonable and respectful of the legitimate concerns raised by clinicians and individuals. Last year, when I raised concerns over the clinical model a close family member was receiving treatment for pancreatic cancer at Velindre Cancer Centre. I have seen first hand the outstanding care provided by staff and volunteers at Velindre Cancer Centre. It is clear there is a need for investment in cancer facilities in South Wales and I wholeheartedly support such investment. As a political and public figure it would be unconscionable for me to stand back and allow these proposals to go ahead, without an independent review first taking place, given the significant concerns raised by clinicians. 

An independent review would examine the clinical model. The Nuffield Trust indicated the stand alone model could become outdated in 10/15years and this therefore supports the need for an independent review. 

It is important the Welsh Government don’t work in silos in respects to health provision in the region. The Heath Hospital will likely see upgrade and development proposals brought forward in the near future and therefore, should an opportunity arise to deliver a co-located cancer centre, serving the people and communities of not only Cardiff but South Wales and beyond, this should be pursued. This will of course be dependent on the timescales of such redevelopment. 

I agree that what we cannot see are unnecessary delays as there is an urgent need to upgrade cancer services in South Wales. The Health Minister could commission an independent review this month (March 2021), with the review reporting back in early June 2021. In making a final decision, the Health Minister would benefit from an independent review into the clinical model. It is my understanding that time has been built into the development proposals to allow for such a review. 

I must also say how hurtful and upsetting some of the comments are which have been made against me, and other individuals, simply for raising legitimate concerns. We can agree to disagree without the need for such comments. I can assure you that I want what’s best for families and communities across Cardiff North and the wider region. Cancer has touched my family, like many others, I will continue to do all I can to support Velindre Cancer Centre.

Joel Williams