THE Echo has launched a petition as it continues to fight to keep a vital cancer surgery unit in Southend.

Plans have been announced to close one of Essex’s two surgical units which offer specialised urological cancer surgery for cancers affecting the bladder, kidney, prostate and testicles.

Either the surgical unit at Southend Hospital or Colchester Hospital will be forced to close under the latest guidelines from Government body, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

The Echo is fighting to keep this vital specialist cancer surgery in Southend.

Councillors from all over Essex have been asked to examine the issue and choose if Essex’s sole centre should be at Southend Hospital or Colchester General Hospital.

Doctors, cancer survivors and politicians have thrown their support behind the Echo’s campaign.

Karen Watson, from Benfleet, has signed the petition. She said: “My dad passed away from cancer in 2013, but he was given the best care at Southend Hospital, which gave him two extra years of life.

“There is no way we would have been able to get to Colchester to visit him every day when he had surgeries.

“Southend is an amazing cancer unit and deserves to stay for the people of south Essex.”

Mark Francois, Parliamentary candidate for Rayleigh and Wickford, and Rebecca Harris, Parliamentary candidate for Castle Point, are the latest politicians to support the campaign.

Mr Francois said: “We have been here before.

“Over a decade ago, as a newly elected MP, I joined forces with Sir David Amess and Sir Teddy Taylor to help fight off similar proposals to transfer a number of specialist cancer operations from Southend to Colchester, or even out of the county to Ipswich.

“Colchester is just as far for south Essex patients to travel as it was then and, as then, there was no reason to challenge the quality of Southend’s cancer unit and the dedicated and highly skilled staff who work there.

“I seem to remember our motto at the time was ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ and as far as I’m concerned that still applies today.”

Rebecca Harris said: “I fully support the Echo’s campaign and my fellow candidates in fighting to keep these centres at Southend.

“More than once in the past local MPs have united to keep services at Southend Hospital and won and I will fight to ensure that record continues.”

Parliamentary candidates Sir David Amess, James Duddridge, Floyd Waterworth and Joe Cooke, as well as local doctors have also united in a bid to save the surgery unit.

Show your support by cutting out and signing the petition on this page or go online at

THE chief executive of Southend Hospital said despite the threats to urological cancer surgery at the hospital, other cancer services will continue.

Chief executive Sue Hardy said: “The location of other cancer treatment – such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy services – will not change, regardless of the ultimate decision on surgical centres.

“Most cancer care will continue to be provided locally and patients with suspected cancer will continue to be referred to their local hospital by their GP for further investigation and diagnosis.”

The Specialist Commissioning Team at NHS England commissions specialised urological cancer surgery and is leading the review of the services.

Essex, Southend and Thurrock Councils are now looking to form a joint overview and scrutiny committee to scrutinise future plans, with a proposed model in place by June. The review will also go out to public consultation.

Melanie Craig, accountable officer at Southend Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The review is limited to specialised urological cancer surgery and it is important our residents know all other cancer services will continue at the hospital, regardless of the outcome of the review.

“However, this is clearly a very important issue for local people.

The clinical commissioning group will ensure residents are kept fully informed throughout and are given every opportunity to make their views heard when the public engagement exercise begins.”