THE trust which runs Winchester hospital has carried out a U-turn on moving a vital service out of the city.

Patients were facing a more than 40-mile round trip as Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust had been in talks to move oncology care to the Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital.

The department which provides treatment for patients diagnosed with cancer had moved out of the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in April - almost at the start of the pandemic - into private hospital BMI Sarum Road, in Winchester.

At the time hospital chiefs said the move was designed to keep the most vulnerable patients out of its main hospitals and to enable them to continue to receive care.

However, patients were told last month that BMI Sarum Road had given notice for the service to move out and the trust made a major decision.

The trust had decided not to reinstate oncology services at Winchester hospital and instead the department would be transferred to Basingstoke hospital, with fears from some patients that this would be permanent in light of plans for a new state-of-the-art hospital.

But as the Chronicle approached the trust for more details, the department was given a reprieve.

A trust spokesperson said that talks had been continuing with bosses at BMI Sarum Road and a way forward had been found.

The spokesperson added: “At the start of the pandemic, we moved our haematology and oncology services to the BMI Sarum Road Hospital in Winchester to minimise the risks of Covid-19 for some of our most vulnerable patients, and to help our staff to continue to deliver this essential care.

“The availability at the BMI facility is the subject of on-going discussions, however, we are pleased to be able to say that - for now - our oncology service will continue to be located there.”

It is not known how long oncology will remain at the private hospital.

The move had alarmed some patients from in and around Winchester, who were worried about making the trip to Basingstoke for their treatment.

One patient, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that he faced a 40-mile round trip if the service had moved to Basingstoke.

He said: “I don’t have any transport, luckily enough I have a friend that has offered to take me. I could have hospital transport but they go all around the houses.”

The patient, who has been receiving treatment for a year, continued: “If you are from Winchester you would be extremely disappointed, if you live in Basingstoke and are coming to Winchester for treatment you would be delighted.”

The patient says that he is “absolutely delighted” that the service will not be moving to Basingstoke at present.

He added: “It makes not a most enjoyable day a lot easier. It makes my treatment a lot more comfortable.”

He now hopes that once the pandemic is over oncology care will be reinstated at Nick Jonas Ward, at Winchester hospital, where treatment previously took place, but the future remains unclear.

Speaking before the U-turn another patient told the Chronicle: “It is unfathomable to understand why cancer treatment and services should be moved so far away from the local population of Winchester, particularly at a time when a) there is a predicted rise in cancer cases resulting from the pandemic, and b) there is a considerable amount of housing being built around Winchester for which healthcare capacity building needs to be factored in.”

They added: “Sadly, one can only assume that the individuals making these decisions, have not experienced cancer for themselves. As there is no compassion or understanding and foresight in this move, it is disheartening that they have no comprehension of a cancer patient’s journey and experience, that is often only tolerable by being treated locally by an established, cohesive and dedicated team.”