Readers force a hospital rethink

Manchester Evening News readers have forced a major U-turn by NHS chiefs after cancer patients faced waiting lists for life-saving treatment.

Thousands sent letters pleading for more cash for the Christie Hospital after the MEN launched its Letters For Life campaign. Doctors had warned that unless they got another £1.5m in NHS funding they would have to introduce waiting lists for chemotherapy that would involve delays of up to six weeks. Experts predicted that rationing treatment would lead to the deaths of some patients.

The newspaper published a series of front-page articles highlighting the cash crisis. A standard letter was published as a cut-out coupon and readers were urged to post or fax it to local NHS negotiators. Celebrities such as Lisa Riley, Tracy Shaw, Max Beesley, Russell Watson, James Hickman, Bernard Manning, Caroline Aherne, Bill Roache and former United boss Tommy Docherty all backed the campaign.

More than 3,000 readers wrote within four days and reporter Rebecca Smith handed dossiers to NHS bosses as they arrived for a crunch meeting.

Following further negotiations, money will be diverted from elsewhere in the NHS and a major review of cancer services will ensure a similar situation does not occur in the future.

MEN editor Paul Horrocks said: “The Christie Hospital holds a special place in the hearts of our readers. It gives hope to thousands and as a world-leading centre of excellence it is so important that it receives the cash it needs to remain at the forefront of treatment. The reaction from our readers was amazing.”

By Jean Morgan

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