The website, called Co-locate Velindre, is a healthcare professional action-group fighting for the best cancer care in South East Wales. Its members are appalled that a new cancer centre for the region is actually planned to be ‘stand-alone’.
A letter has emerged that has been brought to the attention of the STNM campaign.
It was written in November 2020 and sent to the Wales Cancer Research Centre. The Labour Welsh Government has been aware of this letter since that time. Despite this damning appraisal of Velindre’s plans, Health Minister Vaughan Gething signed off the business plan 5 months later, in March 2021, sentencing the people of South East Wales and future generations to substandard cancer care. How can this be allowed to happen?
This letter speaks volumes and should shock each and everyone of us into action. We must stop this madness now and hold the Labour Welsh Government accountable for its actions.
With work due to start mid September, this damning letter, and the damning letter signed by 163 Welsh clinicians, show that regardless of the LONG TERM impact on our cancer treatment, the Government does not care. They don’t care that we’ll be receiving substandard care. And Julie Morgan MS Vaughan Gething MS for Cardiff South and Penarth Julie James Eluned Morgan do not give a toss about the impact this project will have – increasing asthmas and air pollution causing cancers in primary school children, whilst simultaneously throwing a wrench in the future of cancer care in Wales.
Quote: Robert Swan OBE, Polar Explorer and Environmental Leader
“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”
Our Community Newsletter, recently posted through doors in Whitchurch and the surrounding area, gives a stark warning about some of the very serious issues we’ve raised over the last 18 months regarding the proposed development of the Northern Meadows. Though these issues are extremely serious, they have been completely ignored by those who claim to act on our behalf, our local politicians, local council, the Welsh Government themselves and even the managers of Velindre Hospital. All have ignored the issues raised by the local community here in North Cardiff, but also the 163+ senior Clinicians from within the Welsh NHS who have expressed very serious concerns about the safety and future viability of a stand-alone cancer centre.
Please read and take on board the points raised here and help our campaign if you can by getting involved and also by donating to the Just Giving fundraiser for the legal challenge being undertaken by local resident Catherine Lewis.
Here’s a link to the planning application that will allow the destruction of the meadows to begin.
Please follow the link here, have a look at what others have written, then put in your own words why the planning application should be rejected. Any questions just ask us at firstname.lastname@example.org
**SILENT AUCTION UPDATE** – – All of our items have now reached or exceeded the minimum amount (with the exception of the leaf blower) Some items will be available to view on the meadow next Saturday at ‘Fox and Bunny’s Wedding’ at 2pm, more details of this event to follow. The good news is that you can still do a silent bid on anything that takes your fancy! How does it work you may ask? Well we have set a “base price’ on the items and all you have to do is message one of the team before hand with how much you would like to bid, or you can make a bid on Saturday (we will have mini ballot style box) You can message the page directly to make a bid or email us at email@example.com Anything you are unsure please feel to ask questions. We really hope to see you on the day but please feel free to get your bids on NOW…….GO GO GO!!!!!! All bids made will be treated in confidence.
To make a bid email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or make contact through Facebook or Messenger
If you are reading this then we already agree on one point – the most important point – that patients with cancer should receive the very best, most easily accessible, appropriate and up to date care that it is possible to deliver. It is reasonable to assume that this is exactly what those of us engaged in this matter wish for. Sadly, people don’t feel able to speak openly about their true views on many things these days but in relation to this specific matter, there is a large group of clinicians who do not feel able to speak up against the Velindre plans through fear of implications for their employment and personal lives. It is deeply saddening to witness because the only reason any of us are here is to do our best for others.
When the initial plans for the new site were conceived over a decade ago, they were probably appropriate for what was able to be provided at the time. Thankfully, science, medicine and technology have exceeded our expectations and huge steps have been made in all areas. Treatment options and prognoses have radically improved in recent years and this is a fact we should be immensely proud of. As an intensive care doctor and anaesthetist, the nature of cancer patients I care for has dramatically changed over the course of my career. I have a particular interest in anaesthesia and critical care for patients with malignancy. It is something that makes up a significant proportion of our workload and this is increasing as more can be offered to more people. We have increased knowledge about how the conduct of our care impacts on the disease process. This will continue to evolve and I look forward to seeing how things continue to progress and inspire me as the years go by.
Collectively, we can offer the best al- round care providing we accept that cancer treatment rarely requires ‘just’ treatment from an oncologist. In order to support the patient through their disease, access to other services is likely to be needed – specialist surgical services, radiology, general medicine, intensive care and more. When we work cohesively within a system, when we communicate well and when people can transition seamlessly between points of care, the patient experience will inevitably be superior. The current plans for the Velindre site do not offer this. The team at the VCC will be equipped to offer outstanding oncology care but not to deal with all of the potentially life-threatening complications of treatment – the sepsis with multi organ failure and severe toxicity from immunotherapy to name only two examples. Patients will need to be transferred to other sites, removing them from the principal location of their cancer management. At this stage, care can become disjointed and stressful. Communication breaks down, appointments are missed, hospital transport is unreliable and patients suffer both physically and emotionally. A scan in one hospital, an oncology appointment in another, an ENT follow up in another, a planned procedure in another………Is this necessary? Is this helpful? Is this the best way to deliver the best care?
Undoubtedly, the new location of the VCC will offer a beautiful backdrop and the holistic implications of this cannot be underestimated. But is this enough? Can senior NHS managers genuinely say with their hands on their hearts that they can guarantee that individualised emergency care will be delivered as rapidly and as appropriately as it would be on a co-location site? That they cannot foresee any situation whereby there will be avoidable delays in patients receiving the exact level of care that they need? Can they say without a doubt that the care patients receive in an emergency will not be inferior to what they would receive on a site with acute care provision? Can we promise that retrieval and transfers of all sick patients will happen in a timely fashion? It doesn’t happen for any other patients so why would different things apply here? The NHS in Wales is crippled with underfunding, we don’t have enough doctors and nurses, let alone paramedics. How can we make the maths work when it doesn’t already do so? We should not be promising things to patients that we cannot realistically provide. We need to advocate for them and their needs. This is why I am writing this. We can do so much more for the people who trust us to care for them when we work as a team and provide shared care on one site. There will be fewer avoidable gaps in communication, treatment delays, time wasted by patients and families whilst they travel and wait. Stand-alone cancer care is no longer realistic and we should welcome the modernisation of shared care on a shared site.
Here is a pdf copy of the above statement:-
We have assembled a table, with the help and approval of senior clinicians from within the Welsh NHS, that compares the cancer treatments and facilities available in the New Clatterbridge Cancer Hospital opened 2020 in Liverpool versus those in the proposed New Velindre Cancer Centre planned for there Northern Meadows. Why are we being told this is World Leading Cancer Care when it very clearly isn’t!
SCRUBS @ THE SENEDD this sat 12.
Let’s show support to the 163 clinicians who have been silenced.
If you have scrubs, great, if not, just come along as you are.
Mr Vaughan Gething MS
Minister for Health and Social Services
Dear Mr. Gething,
14th January, 2021
As a large group of clinicians who are specialists in the diagnosis, treatment and care of cancer patients in South-East Wales, we recognise the pressing need to address the ageing facilities of the Velindre Cancer Centre (VCC) in north Cardiff. We therefore welcome the independent advice from the Nuffield Trust on the proposed model for non-surgical tertiary oncology services in South East Wales.
We agree with the report that the approach to cancer service planning cannot be the responsibility of a single organisation that is only delivering part of the cancer pathway, as has been the case with Velindre University NHS Trust’s Transforming Cancer Services (TCS) programme.
We agree that co-location with an acute hospital would provide safer acute in-patient care, improve support from other specialties, create a better base for research and be in line with best practice elsewhere. A clear implication from the report is that the best long-term future for Velindre’s acute oncology services, beds for acutely unwell patients and clinical research is on an acute hospital site, alongside other surgical, haematological and paediatric oncology colleagues, as well as vital medical, surgical and intensive care services.
Whilst the report is highly professional and well balanced, it is limited by the short time- scale for its publication and by its questionable terms of reference. We are troubled that, in consequence, it seems too ready to accept as inevitable the construction of the ‘stand-alone’ new building proposed by the TCS programme. The Nuffield Trust seems to endorse a medium-term, ‘split-site’ solution, similar to the Ambulatory Hub model outlined in the Mount Vernon report (2019). In this model, high-volume, low-risk cancer services would be delivered at Northern Meadows, whilst acute oncology, most in- patient services and research would be on an acute hospital site.
We strongly doubt this will deliver the best service for patients, and whether it is the best use of public funds. Ambulatory units can deliver the important goal of care close to patients’ homes. However, we question the logic and huge expense of constructing an ambulatory unit within 3.5 miles of a projected new cancer centre on an acute hospital site. This seems particularly misguided, as the report envisages the viability of the ambulatory unit will be limited by the life-expectancy of new radiotherapy machines, whilst Mutual Investment Model payments from public funds would extend far beyond this period. Furthermore, there would be logistical and financial benefits from integrating plans for the new cancer centre with the re-development of University Hospital Wales (UHW) – a factor that was not a realistic possibility, at the inception of TCS.
The Nuffield Trust states that a full options appraisal of possible clinical models was beyond the remit of its report. We see in this as a missed opportunity which should be rectified. Evidence and expert opinion contained within the report make it clear that patient safety, multi-disciplinary care, training, and continuation of world-class clinical research would all be significantly compromised by failure to co-locate most, if not all, cancer services with an acute hospital. Furthermore, we believe that a stand-alone model is already out-of-date, is out of step with international standards of excellence and lacks future-proofing.
It is not clear why the report concludes that it will take too long to pursue an alternative, co-located ‘full replacement’ model. This conclusion is insufficiently supported by evidence and is open to challenge. The recent, rapidly-constructed Lakeside Wing project at the UHW site, built within months of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, illustrates what can be achieved in a short time, within limited space and when there is a pressing clinical need, as is clearly the case for the VCC’s ageing facilities.
The report does not consider alternatives beyond a 10-15 year interim solution. We share the view that we have a once-in-a-half-century opportunity to integrate much- needed building projects for both VCC and UHW, along with other essential evolution of cancer care in the region’s Health Boards.
Patients and the public need to be reassured that a new location and a new model of care will not compromise Velindre’s long-established and well-deserved reputation for high-quality cancer treatment and care, and for exceptional patient satisfaction. We are therefore concerned that the report did not regard the current proposals as any more than a “reasonable” way forward. This is clearly not an endorsement of the current planned direction, an approach that has already consumed considerable time and money. We therefore call on Welsh Government to assume direct responsibility for addressing deficiencies in leadership and planning pointed out in the Nuffield report. There must be a formal review, including an updated, full options appraisal and re- assessment of some of the prior assumptions made by TCS which are insufficiently challenged in the report. This can be done at pace.
We are convinced that there is an opportunity to integrate existing plans for the VCC new-build with those for a reconfigured UHW. We believe that this would be a logical extension of many of the findings of the Nuffield Trust report and that this can be achieved more rapidly than the 10-15 year time-scale suggested in the report. It would also provide valuable flexibility in the greatly-altered landscape following the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit. Above all, it would represent a more ambitious, genuinely transformative vision for delivering improved cancer survival outcomes for patients, and better value-for-money for the public than the TCS model considered within the limited scope of the Nuffield Trust report.
We would welcome a meeting with you to discuss our views further and to explore potential solutions together.
The undersigned (in alphabetical order, by surname): (Names removed to protect privacy)
The letter sent to the health Minister, Mr Vaughan Gething, was signed by 163 senior clinicians. The vast majority of these are Consultants within their field of practice.
A number of the signatories are Professors.
The specialities represented include the following: Anaesthetics/Pain management.
ENT surgery (Ear Nose and Throat) Gastroenterology
Gastrointestinal Surgery (Upper and Lower GI) General Medicine
Head and Neck Surgery
Public health Radiology/Interventional radiology Respiratory/Chest Physicians Rheumatology
All of the above will deal with the care of patients who have a diagnosis of cancer. For some it represents the main part of their clinical work.
There is NO field within health care that does not have a part to play in the screening, diagnosis, treatment, care of, recovery or palliation of patients with cancer.
The 163 signatories are a cross section of health care in South East Wales.
These people are the experts!
They understand the immensely complex and overlapping needs of these patients! Please listen to the experts.
Link to all members of Senedd:-
Click on his/her picture and you should get contact details.
Link to Ministers:-
Link to Commissioners:-
Link to contact details:-
Firstly we want to thank all our supporters, you’re amazing, and we wouldn’t have got this far without you.
As recent protests and vigils have shown we can come together and firmly show our resilience, love for the world and our communities. Together we are unstoppable.
Let’s do this.
In the short term – let’s make any move on the meadows a crushing political blow with our open objection to this. Up and down the country in this last week alone communities have been out to stop the destruction of our world.
Our history, our heritage, our health, our homes and our future are all tied in to this space.
So keep fighting with us. You can donate to our just giving, you can support us by helping with research or social media monitoring, or you can join a protest. We will resist, we won’t simply allow this destruction to be wrought on our community and our environment.
Our press release:
“We are angry at Vaughan Gething’s decision to give the go-ahead to the new Velindre Cancer Centre on the Northern Meadows for a number of reasons. The concerns of 163 senior clinicians have been ignored and the community, Coryton primary school, Ty Coryton Special school, and assisted living accommodation within the area have been sentenced to four years of heavy construction. This will cause immeasurable damage to the people living nearby.
Gething states, the development will be sustainable. But cutting down over 100 mature, and nearly 1000 semi-mature trees is not sustainable, nor does it care for our future generations. With numerous protected species living on and around the meadows, we despair at the impact this will have on biodiversity in Cardiff. It makes a mockery of the declaration of a climate emergency, the Environment Act, and the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. And it laughs in the face of the children who live here, who are already subject to dangerous and illegal levels of air pollution.
Transforming Cancer Services has repeatedly lied to the Welsh Government and the public, failing to produce the Barrett report, failing to constructively engage their staff and clinicians. Choosing a medical model that will simply have ‘many’ of the benefits of co-location is simply not good enough. Actually co-locating on an acute hospital site and having ‘all’ the benefits of co-location is what the patients of South East Wales deserve. Without this SE Wales will continue to have the worst cancer outcomes in Europe. We deserve better.
The Senedd Petitions Committee has this week chosen to carry the petition to the next Senedd post-election, as it has not received the information requested from Velindre. Velindre has failed in its statutory obligation to answer a number of FOI requests and this is being examined by the Information Ombudsman. Despite all of this, Vaughan Gething has chosen to grant this decision in order to fulfil a defunct manifesto commitment.
This is not the right model of cancer care for the future and it is not the right location. We will not accept this decision and now more than ever see the requirement for a full independent inquiry. We will continue to fight this decision, which disregards the needs of future generations, of the local community, of biodiversity, and our commitment to the climate. Hypocritically, the Ministers statement asks us to work with them. Yet he has treated us with total disregard throughout the decision making process. We will make it clear for him – we refuse to give up our open space, our health, our biodiversity, for a project which will not provide the best cancer care the people of South East Wales require.”
Dear Mr Richards and Mr Gething
I know you have received much correspondence about the Northern Meadows in Whitchurch but please take the time to read my email as I am suggesting workable solutions.
Mr Gething: Please do not approve any business case which involves the destruction of the meadows.
Mr Richards: I implore you and your Board to withdraw the offer made for the land swap with Velindre NHS Trust and rethink application 20/00357/MJR on the Whitchurch Hospital site.
I have suggestions of how all this could move this forward – to benefit cancer patients, communities and future generations, and with public support. Please, let’s work together and let’s look at the bigger picture.
The new VCC
Following Nuffield’s advice, co-location is required in the long term to secure patient safety, positive outcomes, and world-class training and research. With this in mind, there is no justification to building to the extent originally planned and destroying the Northern Meadows.
Immediately, Velindre could be extended upwards or outwards, and the Grange@Whitchurch used in the interim until full co-location on an acute site is possible (within the Heath Hospital refurbishment plans, possibly), to take the pressure off the current building (after all, £6million of NHS money has been spent on the Grange site). Focus also needs to be on building the satellite centre in Abergavenny as soon as possible.
The Northern Meadows
Through a Community Asset Transfer or collaboration between CAVUHB and the community, leave the meadows as they are. They are vital to biodiversity and to the mental and physical health of thousands of people.
In the short term, through 3rd sector funding and fundraising we would:
- Improve the paths, making them accessible to buggies, wheelchair users and those unsteady underfoot.
- Create nature trails.
- Display information boards.
- Create environmentally sensitive walkways from Velindre, City Hospice and Whitchurch Hospital.
Through 3rd sector funding in the longer term
- Connect with all sorts of organisations (eg. Mind, McMillan, Age Concern, City Hospice, local GP and social services, young parents groups, nurseries, schools, youth provisions and many, many more) and provide nature-based workshops and experiences to support wellbeing, rehabilitation, physical & mental health. There are so, so many opportunities to support people, introduce them to nature and its healing benefits.
- Create a cultural visitors attraction – Highlight the area’s history – The Cory Family; Lady Cory Field; the Old Cardiff Railway; the Glamorganshire Canal; Melin Griffith Tin Works; Renowned naturalist and conservationist Ronald Lockley; The Hollybush and its connection to the Welsh language; Whitchurch Hospital etc.
- Create a volunteer network to preserve and enhance the area. (Working with Cardiff Council and Forest Farm Nature Reserve).
- Create a core-staff team to manage these projects (potentially providing jobs for the local community.)
- Young people could volunteer as part of their Welsh Baccalaureate, Duke of Edinburgh etc. and undertake work experience placements. And those at risk of exclusion or disengagement from school could also undertake placements.
- Those on community sentences and on ROLT (Release on temporary licence) could undertake placements, supporting their rehabilitation, resettlement into society – providing new skills, work experience and improving self-esteem.
- And many, many more ideas of how this space could benefit the community moving forwards.
Whitchurch Hospital (WH) Chapel
Refurbished to become a community resource centre. It could hold a café, play sessions for children, all sorts of arts and crafts workshops, youth provision, after school clubs (working closely with the sports clubs in the area and children can engage in nature activities.)
The Military Medicine Museum and Britannia Park – Whitchurch Hospital
Across the city, decisions are being made that are distressing communities and putting mental and physical health at risk. The people of Butetown and the Bay are hugely distressed with the proposal to site the above museum on Britannia Park, resulting in the loss of precious and rare green space in the area and a children’s playground.
If it is 100% decided that Cardiff should have this museum (many oppose not only its location but subject matter) then it should come to Whitchurch Hospital. WH was used during both world wars. The elm trees on the common were planted as a gift to the community from American soldiers. Houses on Park Road were used to accommodate recovering soldiers. The gardens and meadows were used for rehabilitation of patients.
The architecture of Whitchurch Hospital is significant and is studied on university architecture courses. There is a vast history there. Let’s honour it and learn it all.
I know that CAVUHB wrote in support of this museum and that there is to be a project attached to support veterans. What better place than in Whitchurch where there is already precedence set for the rehabilitation of service people? With access to the meadows, the nature reserve and the support and opportunities I am proposing here, it would be really complementary and could be hugely beneficial to many.
It could also take an honest look at the advancement of medicine in relation to colonialism; health inequalities among lower income and BAME communities and hopefully show what we have learned and continue to learn and the steps being taken to improve things for the future.
Income generating schemes
- Friends of the Northern Meadows memberships
- Fundraising through all sorts of community events
- Children’s nature-based children’s parties
- Purchase a tree/flower planting for honouring a birth, other significant life events or in memorandum
- Name plaques (such as the Millennium Walkway or Penarth Pier)
- Long term – working with the Council and Forest Farm – development of the cottages at Forest Farm and then used for school trips, team building weekends.
- Corporate Away days.
- Formal, informal and non-formal opportunities
- Nursery, school and college visits
- I have made an initial approach to Pencoed College about running accredited courses at the Northern Meadows, WH Chapel and Forest Farm and will be exploring this further. Young people and older people alike could undertake courses on environmental studies, horticulture, animal and nature studies. We could train the next generation in industries that will work to secure healthier and green futures for us all.
- Apprenticeships for all aspects – building and refurbishment of the chapel, gardening to restore the historic gardens, customer service, hospitality in the community café.
- The list goes on but here are just some examples of opportunities and a full community consultation would provide many more. There are a wealth of skills and experiences within our community. I myself am a youth and community worker, and teacher (predominantly with young people at risk of exclusion and young offenders). We have people who are medical, teachers, academics, social workers, child-minders, artists, graphic designers, engineers, sports coaches, ecologists, solicitors, those working in hospitality, retail and many, many more. All these people can bring their ideas and experiences to enhance this project.
The community is exhausted. We are being made ill by the stress and distress. We have been subjected to months of abuse and vitriol online and have been bombarded by developers with tactically timed applications and amendments through the planning system, hoping to confuse and overpower us.
We cannot lose this crucial green space. Our children cannot endure being exposed to the levels of pollution this development will involve. Communities increased risks of flooding cannot be allowed to happen, not only in Whitchurch, but Llandaf North, Gabalfa, and along the whole Taff corridor into town.
These thing make people ill. These things have a massive detrimental effect on wellbeing, physical and mental health.
Please work with us to create something amazing. Something we can all be proud of. Something that will benefit us all and future generations. Work with the community to try and achieve positive change rather than against it or without it’s input.
Please do not go ahead with something that will divide and devastate our communities. That will be extortionately expensive, burdening future generations, causing irreparable damage to the environment and provide second rate, out-dated cancer care for the whole of South East Wales.
There is no need to choose between updated cancer care and the Northern Meadows. We can have both.
I respectfully request an acknowledgement and reply from you both and request to speak with you further on this matter urgently.
Please make the right choice for us all.
-, on behalf of the Save the Northern Meadows group
We have received the contents of a letter sent by clinicians to Welsh Ministers, Senedd Members, and Councillors in South East Wales. This highlights the major concerns regarding a stand alone Cancer Centre. Yet Members largely chose to ignore these at the Plenary debate on Wednesday 3rd of March, despite having it sitting in their inbox. Instead, they used platitudes regarding their constituents, failing to acknowledge the evidence that this cancer centre will not be fit for purpose, or even try to hold the Executive team who have wasted public money and time to account.
We are publishing the letter as we feel Members are violating their duty to act in the public interest, and secure the best, safest cancer care for their constituents. Read the shocking issues with the model below.
Dear Members of the Senedd,
I apologise for writing to you uninvited, but I believe that the information contained in this email is of paramount importance, and as such it must be shared widely with all stakeholders and interested parties.
At the latest meeting of the petitions committee it was recommended that a submission calling for an independent clinical review of the proposed new Velindre Cancer Centre (VCC) be put forward for open debate in the Senedd.
Open debate requires those engaged to have access to all the information.
This email was originally sent to the Health Minister as there was significant concern that the decision making process regarding the siting of the New Velindre Cancer Centre may have been adversely affected by misinformation and as such it is now fatally flawed.
I am sending to you today an updated version with inclusion of two additional documents (Appendices Nineteen and Twenty).
The following observations are not made lightly, and each one is referenced with supporting evidence.
- The Non existent Barrett Report.
- Misrepresentation of the number of patients transferred urgently.
- Misrepresentation of the role of EMRTS (Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service).
- Falsely stating EMRTS had attended a patient who sadly died.
- Misrepresenting the time taken for ambulance transfer for escalation of care.
- Misrepresentation/Suppression of the Level of concern within Velindre NHS trust.
- Failure to fully and meaningfully engage stakeholder Health Boards in the planning process.
- A recent letter signed by 163 Senior clinicians, expressing concern at the current plans for a stand alone new Velindre Cancer Centre.
The above points are explained in detail below, with 20 appended documents to confirm the veracity of each point raised.
I. The Barrett report:
In the document produced by the Velindre NHS Trust “Why not build a new Velindre Cancer Centre on another hospital site?” (Appendix One) the following statement is made:
“The clinical lead in an external review of the project, carried out in 2017, was Dr Jane Barrett OBE, an eminent UK clinical oncologist and past President of the Royal College of Radiologists.”
This statement is clearly refuted in an email from Dr Barrett herself (Appendix Two), wherein it is stated:
“You are correct that I was involved in the review into the siting of satellite centres in South Wales. However it was not a review into the redevelopment of Velindre.”
The existence of an independent clinical review of the proposed stand alone model has frequently been alluded to by the Velindre NHS trust, when the reality is that no such report was ever written by Dr Barrett.
To date NO external clinical review of the project has been undertaken. The Nuffield Trust did not undertake a clinical review, as clearly stated on page 10 of their report (Appendix Seven)
“First, this is not and has never claimed to be a wholescale independent review of the project. The scope of this report is tightly defined and relates specifically to the clinical management of the planned network model for non-surgical tertiary cancer services and new cancer centre.”
2. Misrepresentation of Patient numbers transferred for urgent escalation of care unavailable at the current Velindre site:
The concern here is that the current figures as quoted by the Velindre NHS trust are incorrect, misleading and falsely reassuring to the general public. More worrying is the intention to replicate this current model of care at the proposed New Velindre Cancer Centre on the Northern Meadows.
In the same document “Why not build a new Velindre Cancer Centre on another hospital site?” (Appendix One) the following statement is made:
“fewer than thirty patients a year on average need an unplanned emergency transfer.”
A Freedom of Information enquiry was submitted to WAST (Welsh Ambulance Service Trust) (Appendix Three) and in their response they have provided the raw data on ambulance transfers (Appendix Four).
What this clearly shows is that on average around 100 patients are transferred each year using the 999 Ambulance system. These are urgent transfers for escalation of care that is not available at the Velindre Hospital.
The same request was made of Velindre NHS trust in respect of acute patient transfers, and their response is included as Appendix Five.
In the response by Velindre NHS Trust , the following statement is made:
“Due to the nature of these clinical pathways, and the number of clinical systems, the organisation does not hold one overall system that collates all patient interventions and transfers”
“In our duty to advise and assist we can confirm patients are transferred to other acute hospitals for a range of interventions and the details are accessible by clinical staff in the individual patient record.”
Essentially the Velindre NHS trust have no idea how many patients are transferred each year, nor indeed why they are transferred. To be certain of the exact figure, every set of patient notes held by the Velindre Hospital would have to be scrutinised.
The previous statement “Fewer than 30 patients a year” could, for all we know, be a random number chosen to offer a false sense of security to the public.
A detailed analysis of the responses to both FOI enquiries submitted to WAST and Velindre NHS Trust is included as Appendix 6. It must also be noted that this misrepresentation continued as recently as November 2020, with the publication of a letter in the South Wales Echo, from the Chair of Velindre NHS Trust (Appendix sixteen).
Whilst this letter suggests that most transfers were non urgent, the Nuffield Trust report 2020 (Appendix Seven) states on page 32:
“In addition to the 999 calls detailed above, there were a very small number of other non-urgent transfers”
3. Misrepresentation of the role of EMRTS (Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service):
In the same document “Why not build a new Velindre Cancer Centre on another hospital site?” (Appendix One) the following statement is made:
“have access to the Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTs) who can assess and transfer these unwell patients to the University Hospital of Wales (UHW)”
A similar statement is made in the document “Transforming Cancer Services In South East Wales – Clinical Service Model – January 2016 (Appendix Eighteen) wherein it is stated on page 11:
“Patients rapidly deteriorating will have access to Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Services, who will come to Velindre Cancer Centre, stabilise the patient and arrange transfer to the most appropriate Local Health Board”
To the general public, the belief that the helicopter doctors are on hand is hugely reassuring.
In the last five years EMRTS have attended twice, and they did not attend at all in 2019. This is stated on page 32 of the Nuffield Trust Report 2020 (Appendix Seven).
The statement as made by the Velindre NHS trust is falsely reassuring and misleading.
Whilst EMRTS are available to any critically unwell patient, the practicalities of their attending a hospital site over 50 miles from their helicopter base in Llanelli, yet 3 miles from UHW, translates to the reality of having attended only twice in five years.
4. Misrepresentation of the role of EMRTS in attending the fatal collapse at Velindre NHS Trust:
More concerning is the fact that Velindre NHS Trust have stated in the response to two separate Freedom of information requests, that EMRTS attended in 2019 to treat the patient who collapsed and died.
This patient had suffered an anaphylactic reaction to chemotherapy.
The public would have been reassured to believe that the specialist helicopter doctors attended this resuscitation.
Velindre NHS Trust stated that EMRTS did attend. (Page 4, Appendix 5).
They did not: (Appendix 8, Appendix 9).
Perhaps of equal concern is the statement made by the Velindre NHS trust regarding this unexpected death. (Appendix Five)
“The case was not reported as a serious incident as it did not meet the threshold for reporting.”
5. Misrepresentation of the transfer times for patients requiring urgent escalation of care:
In the same document “Why not build a new Velindre Cancer Centre on another hospital site?” (Appendix One) the following statement is made:
“UHW is less than three miles away and can be reached within minutes.”
As previously stated, the Velindre NHS trust do not collect and collate this data, and as such the statement is presumably a guess based on geographical proximity. The statement as it reads is very reassuring, the reality, less so.
A freedom of information request was submitted to the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust (WAST) requesting information on transfer times.
The response (Appendix Ten) and the raw data provided in the form of an Excel Spreadsheet (Appendix Eleven) is Analysed and summarised in Appendix 12 .
a) The average wait for an ambulance was:
AMBER ONE calls = 59 minutes 59 seconds
RED calls = 8 minutes 18 seconds
b) The Longest wait for an Ambulance was
AMBER ONE Call = 3 hours 27 minutes 52 seconds
RED Call = 24 minutes
c) Average wait for handover at hospital
AMBER ONE calls = 44 minutes 54 seconds
RED Calls = 30 minutes 28 seconds
d) The longest wait for Handover at Hospital
AMBER ONE Call = 4 Hours 12 minutes 25 seconds
RED Call = 51 minutes 21 Seconds
e) Average Transfer Time for RED calls to UHW = 6 minutes 36 seconds
Average transfer Time for AMBER ONE calls to UHW = 8 Minutes and 10 seconds.
The suggestion that UHW (University Hospital of Wales) can be reached in minutes, belies the stark truth.
Reassuring the public that UHW can be reached in minutes is a disingenuous representation of the actual time these transfers take.
These patients are already ill, they deteriorate, and then on average for AMBER ONE CALLS have to wait nearly two hours until admitted to UHW.
This fact is also discussed in the Nuffield report (Page 31 – 32).
6. Misrepresentation/Suppression of the level of concern within the Velindre NHS Trust:
“Our plans for providing specialist, non-surgical cancer services for people across south east Wales have the support of health board clinicians, our staff and patients”
Both TCS (Transforming Cancer Services) and the Velindre NHS Trust will have been aware of the level of concern expressed by a significant number of its senior doctors and nurses.
A letter was written to this effect on 24 July 2020, but appeared to progress no further than the Chief executive (Appendix Thirteen), and it was not until external help and reassurance was provided by the British Medical Association, that the letter was sent to the Health Minister and other members of the Health, Social Care and Sports committee.
I requested, under the Freedom of Information act, a copy of the letter written by the British Medical association to the Velindre NHS trust. After 57 working days (The expectation is that a response will be provided within 20 working days) The Velindre NHS Trust wrote to me advising that they would not release the letters as requested.
They stated that it was in the public interest to withhold this information.
I have now obtained a copy of the letter from the BMA to the Velindre NHS Trust, which is attached as Appendix Nineteen. The letter itself confirms the belief that there was suppression of internal dissent, including the line:
“members are still not prepared to speak up because of fear of reprisals”
7. Failure to fully engage the other stakeholder Local Health Boards in the planning process:
This is discussed in both the Nuffield report and the minutes of the Health Social care and Sports Committee meeting held on 30/09/2020 [https://record.assembly.wales/Committee/6443]
On Page 18 of the Nuffield Trust report (Appendix Seven) the following points are made with reference to the Transforming cancer care Programme
- A strong emphasis on care closer to home and the design of care around the patient’s need.
- Enhanced care within the Local Health Boards (LHB).
- Three or more Velindre@ specialist units supported by VCC, providing a range of ambulatory cancer services within LHB sites and working closely with local services.
- A VCC satellite radiotherapy unit at Abergavenny.
- A new VCC including acute care and providing the Velindre@ for the Cardiff & Vale LHB.
The detailed components of some of this have not been developed. This planning process culminated in the approval in 2017–18 by all LHBs of an outline business case for a new VCC to be built on the Northern Meadows,
It beggars belief that despite the fact that “The detailed components of some of this have not been developed” approval was gained for the outline business plan.
This may in part be explained by comments from the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Frank Atherton, at the Health Social care and Sports Committee meeting held on 30/09/2020, at 09:42:50 Dr Atherton states:
“I think perhaps, with the benefit of hindsight, having made the decision by the health boards to go ahead with the construction of the new Velindre cancer centre back in 2018, perhaps that clinical engagement should have continued, and that’s perhaps allowed—that perhaps didn’t happen as much as it needed to.”
At 09:50:21 the following statement is made, again by Dr Atherton:
“ Talking to Tom Crosby, in particular, he spent a huge amount of time travelling around all the health boards, talking with all interested parties from a clinical perspective, up to the decision by the health boards in 2018 to proceed with the development of the new Velindre cancer centre. Of course, since then, time has moved on, and, with the benefit of hindsight, I think it would have been better if that clinical engagement perhaps had continued. It probably paused because a decision had been made; it was assumed that everybody was comfortable”
It is quite clear that the engagement process has been incomplete and flawed.
Assuming everyone was comfortable is not the same as unanimous support, and surely not the ringing endorsement to signal the green light for a £200 million project.
It is known that the cancer lead from Cardiff and Vale expressed significant concerns as far back as 2017, regarding the proposal to build a stand alone model.
It is also clear that when engaging with other Health boards, there was no discussion around the findings of the Beatson enquiry into the West of Scotland Cancer Centre, despite this having been undertaken in 2015 (Appendix 14).
More recently there have been further significant examples of Velindre NHS trust failing to engage with other Health Boards in respect of the care of acutely unwell patients.
Velindre NHS trust have undertaken a pilot project to significantly restrict the number and type of patient admitted to their beds.
This is outlined on page 33 of the Nuffield report:
“During the course of our work, the Trust proposed a new set of admission criteria that would further reduce the risks associated with sick patients out of hours”
One must ask why now?
TCS have been in place for 6 years, and have spent £20 Million, yet at no point prior to this did they consider reviewing the admissions criteria for the current hospital. Understanding which patients require what treatment would obviously impact on plans for the New Cancer Centre.
If you do not know what is needed in the present time, how can you plan for the future?
This new admissions protocol has been commenced in the middle of a significantly escalating pandemic, without consulting the other Health Boards who will now have to admit those patients deemed unsuitable for Velindre.
The date for implementation of phase one of this new admission protocol was set at 14/12/2020, (Appendix Fifteen) without discussions having taken place with other Health Boards who may be significantly impacted.
The Nuffield Report essentially states that NO patients should be admitted to Velindre. On page 45 of the report:
“The new model should not admit who are at risk of major escalation, to inpatient beds on the VCC.
These patients should be sent to district general hospital sites if admission is required, to avoid a later transfer”
In reality, this encompasses all patients. If you have cancer, and require admission to hospital, there is inherent in this the risk of deterioration.
Trying to predict which patients will deteriorate and those who will not is unsafe.
8. Letter signed by 163 Senior Clinicians.
This letter is attached as appendix Twenty. The letter questions the wisdom of building a stand alone cancer centre and draws on the Nuffield Trust Advice document to highlight specific issues.
The names of all signatories have been removed as anonymity was in many cases requested. This reflects the significant issues raised above in the letter from the BMA.
The names, role within cancer care and the seniority of all signatories are known to the Health Minister, who can confirm the legitimacy of this letter.
It is clear that TCS and the Velindre NHS Trust have been lacking a level of precision that one might expect from a statutory body, when outlining the facts and figure they have used to reassure the public and politicians regarding the safety of the proposed New Velindre Cancer centre on the Northern Meadows.
The reasons for the persistent inexactitude need to be determined before this project is allowed to proceed any further.
Despite the manner in which the Nuffield Trust engagement was announced (this being at 08:59 on the day the WAG Petitions committee were due to consider a petition calling for an independent clinical review) and the very rigid terms of reference, the Nuffield Trust report makes clear that co-location at UHW would be the option that best serves the needs of the next generation of cancer patients.
There exists the opportunity to use the new Covid-19 Surge unit as a base for co-location, with this unit providing ample space for inpatient beds and research on the UHW campus.
There is no need for a conference centre, and the belief that such a facility might generate significant income now appears questionable, as the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly changed the whole landscape of clinical conferences.
What is left can now be safely and expeditiously built on the current Velindre/Grange site if immediate and full co-location proves challenging.
Spending up to £30 million on access roads to the northern meadows, to build a much smaller unit which may only be used for 10 years may be considered fiscally inappropriate.
One final question which must be asked is why there has been no progress on the satellite radiotherapy unit at Abergavenny.
This unit has the agreement of all invested parties. The report was published in 2017 (Appendix Seventeen) yet 3 years later a business plan has yet to be submitted.
This delay needs to be explored and explained.
As politicians, doctors, nurses and clinicians, our service to the public is but transient.
It is incumbent on us to do the right thing, for the right reasons at the right time.
We owe this to the future generations.
After the debate on Wednesday the 3rd of March we have decided to submit a complaint with the petitions committee officer and with the standards commissioner. We’re not happy at the way our petition was treated (an independent inquiry was not even mentioned once by Members other than Janet Finch Saunders to introduce the petition), and there were mistruths told by a number of Members. Although the stories of patients are important and deserve to be heard, the facts of the clinical, environmental, and monetary issues with the new cancer centre also deserved to be heard. Sadly, it didn’t appear like any of the labour members had attempted to read our submissions, or those sent by clinicians to all Ministers and Members. Therefore we submitted the following compliant.
“I am writing to you today as a result of the plenary debate which took place on Wednesday 3rd of March. We followed your advice and lobbied members extensively regarding the petition. We reached out to a number of our regional MS’s, and heard two would like to have spoken – Gareth Bennett and Neil McEvoy, – as well as hearing of support from Rhun ap Iorwerth. However, when it came to debate, Ap Iorwerth, was the only non-Labour member to be selected. As such we were not represented on balance within this ‘debate’.
Our petition was not even mentioned by the members, regardless of the tireless work we have done to raise the serious clinical and environmental issues within the petitions process, it appears this was never read by the members who spoke. Further, the Llywydd stated on twitter it was simply an oversight made by her team member that our petition and local area had no representation in the debate. How can such a casual oversight occur on such a divisive and serious issue? This is unacceptable to our campaign, and the local people who have been tirelessly working to support this petition.
As a result I would like to complain –
1. Petition 200171 was not treated in a balanced, impartial way, with the llywydds office only choosing one non-Labour, non-governing member to speak in support of petition 200171;
2. The debate was compromised of those pursuing the Governments agenda and failed to consider the facts regarding the location of the new cancer centre, and the petition calling for an independent inquiry and the local community were totally ignored;
3. The words independent inquiry were never mentioned by a member other than Janet Finch-Saunders to introduce the petition. As such our petition was never considered;
4. No members representing South Wales Central were called, however two requested to speak and were denied. Therefore Cardiff North was not represented, and neither was our petition. This undermined the process which was supposed to give the 5,241 signatories a voice in the Senedd, effectively leaving us voiceless and unrepresented. Therefore this debate did not consider our petition;
5. Members made a number of false and misleading claims in plenary, misleading the public and the Government Ministers present. I would be happy to outline these further if required.
I will also be making a formal complaint to the Llywydd’s office, and standards commissioner as a result of the effort to manipulate this debate purely in favour of a new cancer centre, and disregard and ignore the views of 5,241 who signed our petition. This is a clear violation of Senedd standards.
I want to be clear – we didn’t have a debate on Wednesday. Rather, it was a purposeful white-wash. And so I will be clear – this community will not be ignored or misrepresented, regardless of how the processes have repeatedly undermined us, or the leaks within multiple departments which give the petitioner in support of the new centre advantages.
We will continue to pursue a real debate on this issue where we are represented equally. This is the least we deserve considering this process of opposition has occurred during a global pandemic.
Save the Northern Meadows”
Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to secure signatures supporting our petition for an independent inquiry into the choice of site for the new Velindre Cancer Centre. Our petition will now be debated in the Senedd on the 3rd of March!
We are now asking you to email your MS’s and ask for their support for our petition! If you don’t know your MS’s email address you can find it here.
Please contact your MS’s, and ask them to support the campaign for an independent inquiry into the site and to protect the Northern Meadows (and other green spaces!) from development.
We have outlined some ideas for what you could mention in support of our petition below:
Save the Northern Meadows goals are to ensure cancer care is future-proofed for all, that the Government doesn’t waste valuable public money on unnecessarily extravagant projects, and that the meadows and railway cutting are permanently preserved for future generations.
Emails have already been sent by us and clinicians about serious issues surrounding Velindre, the medical model chosen, the funding model, and the environmental implications of building on the site. The following highlights key points raised in those letters.
- Over 1,000 objections were submitted to four planning applications which were granted without covering community concerns;
- Over 100 parents at Coryton Primary expressed concerns over their children’s health if the development goes ahead;
- 12,000 + people signed a petition asking the Government to stop the destruction;
- 5,241 people called for an independent inquiry into the medical model and choice of site;
- Hundreds of people protested in Whitchurch on at least four occasions;
- And we joined over 1,000 people across Cardiff to call for JUSTICE NOW: environmental, racial, economic, and social justice in Wales in September 2020.
All of the following information has been obtained via FOI and relate to misrepresentations made by Velindre:
- The Non existent Barrett Report.
- Misrepresentation of the number of patients transferred urgently for escalation of care.
- Misrepresentation of the role of EMRTS (Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service).
- Falsely stating EMRTS had attended a patient who sadly died.
- Misrepresenting the time taken for ambulance transfer for escalation of care.
- Misrepresentation/Suppression of the Level of concern within Velindre NHS trust, as witnessed by the need for the BMA to intervene to support doctors.
- Failure to fully and meaningfully engage stakeholder Health Boards in the planning process.
- A recent letter signed by 163 Senior clinicians, expressing concern at the current plans for a stand alone new Velindre Cancer Centre.
We can also draw these conclusions from the Nuffield Trust Advice:
- Co-Location at UHW (University Hospital Wales) is the gold standard especially for safety (This is clearly described in Appendix One of the Document).
- The Transforming Cancer Services (TCS) Programme has been insular and as such has failed to properly engage key stakeholders.
- Recent proposals by TCS appear to be reactive to circumstances rather than proactive.
6 years and £20 Million have not provided a blueprint to transform cancer services. The plan is simply to replicate current services.
- Failure to co-locate threatens patient safety, research, teaching programmes.
- The redevelopment of Velindre Cancer Centre at UHW is a once in a lifetime opportunity to transform cancer services for the whole of South East Wales, yet this opportunity may be missed through inflexibility, inaction or partiality.
- Transforming Cancer Services should never have been the responsibility of a single organisation that delivers only part of the pathway. The whole regional network, transparent, accountable and well led, is the key to excellence.
There are also significant issues with the way the project will be funded:
- The Welsh Government will fund the cost of enabling works with a grant of at least £26.9 million. This amount was reached by applicants before contracting developers, and would cause a significant amount of devastation in the railway cutting, as it would pay for the cost of building two bridges two the meadows through the local nature reserve.
- Further, the rest of the project will be funded by the widely discredited Mutual Investment Model (MIM). This means our cancer care will be the first hospital in wales funded through a public-private finance initiative, largely reflecting the disaster of the Public Finance Initiative (PFI).
- The National Assembly for Wales finance committee enquiry reported that ‘Whilst MIM is an improvement in terms of community benefits and oversight of projects, it is hard to establish a significant difference between the two models, specifically as to how MIM offers greater value for money than previous PFI models’ (2019:5).
- The maintenance of the site and building will be managed by a private company using non-NHS workers until 2050. But the Nuffield Advice clearly states the project only has short term viability of 10-15 years as a much smaller unit than initially envisioned. How is this a sustainable use of public money?
- More information about MIM and Velindre is available here.
Furthermore, the environmental implications of building on the meadows are clear:
- The construction will result in the total destruction of an Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC), an area of Local Nature Reserve (LNR), impact directly upon the border of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI);
- Increase the risk of flooding: The development envisages the discharge of surface water into the Glamorganshire Canal and adjoining Melingriffith Feeder. Both these watercourses have flooded in recent months, and caused the flooding of housing around Forest Farm Road in February 2020;
- Contribute to dangerous levels of air pollution: In November, 101 parents from Coryton Primary School signed a letter opposing the development because of the real threat increasing air pollution has on children who will be surrounded by cars and heavy vehicles on all sides of the school;
- Harm protected species: Evidence from the developers suggest dormice, badgers, grassnakes, slowworms, bats, red and amber listed breeding birds, and hedgehogs nest on, or hunt on the site;
- Result in the felling of hundreds, if not thousands of mature or semi-mature trees. This is farcical considering the climate emergency:
- Housing will also be built following the construction of the hospital, with only 20% affordable provision in a plan proposed by TCS, Cardiff Council, and notably Cardiff and Vale University Health Board (application 20/00357/MJR). This opens up Whitchurch and North Cardiff to even more polluting developments, when considering the breadth of development occurring from Plasdwr to Lisvane.
- The significance of Carbon Capture: The Northern Meadows has significant potential as an urban carbon sink, with a self seeding forest growing on the meadows and within the railway cutting. Furthermore, Longwood is a semi-ancient forest – hence its categorisation as an SSSI – and must be enhanced to ensure its resilience. Allowing the forest to take the meadows naturally would contribute to the goals of enhancing and maintaining biodiveristy;
- The loss of a significant community amenity during a pandemic will be criminal. At present only 8% of Cardiff is publicly accessible green space, compared to 15% in cities like Birmingham.
Environmental Law is clear, the meadows and other green spaces must be protected:
- The Convention on Biological Diversity (1992), Articles 8, 9, 10.
- The Rio Declaration (1992), Principles 1, 4, 11, 15.
- The Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act (2015), Section 2, 4, 5(1).
- The Environment (Wales) Act (2016) Section 3 and 6.
- The Nature Recovery Action Plan 2020-21 states (section 6) there is a requirement for urgent, short-term actions which align the responses to the climate emergency with the biodiversity emergency, state resilient biodiversity is needed everywhere, including the creation of core resilience areas, and that the network of protected sites in Wales should be improved.
As such why is the Welsh Government choosing to undermine its own legislation for the protection, maintenance, enhancement, and resilience of biodiversity?
In addition, we have a number of important questions for the Welsh Government Ministers:
- Why has Lesley Griffiths MS never once responded to the campaigns questions regarding the environment after five attempts to contact her?
- Why has the community – including Save the Northern Meadows, but also the Hollybush Estate Residents Association, and Partnerships and Communities Together Whitchurch and Tongwynlais – been repeatedly and systematically undermined, ignored, and misrepresented by TCS, Velindre, and Labour MS’s?
- Why have we been removed from the engagement process, despite the assertions there would be a community engagement officer?
- Why is the project still being considered regardless of the scandalous choice of medical model, the environmentally destructive form, and the bullying character of those in charge?
Please feel free to choose from any of the arguments and information above, add your own information, personal experience, and send to MS’s!
This morning, we sent a letter to Lesley Griffiths MS, the Minister for the Environment, Energy, and Rural Affairs, highlighting the environmental impact of building on the meadows. We have emailed her 6 times in the past, but we are yet to have a single response.So we thought it was about time to throw the metaphorical book at her and her Government. Feel free to use the arguments we used here to write your own letter to her (Correspondence.Lesley.Griffiths@gov.wales), or we will soon have a letter template for you to use.Building on the meadows will be an environmental disaster, and we refuse to let that happen. #SaveTheNorthernMeadows#KeepItGreen#Rethink
Write to Lesley Griffiths MS, Minister for the Environment, Energy, and Rural Affairs to support Save the Northern Meadows – copy and paste the letter below, add your name and your comments, and send as a New Year’s present for the minister!
Send to: Correspondence.email@example.com
And CC: Correspondence.Julie.Morgan@gov.wales, firstname.lastname@example.org, Correspondence.Mark.Drakeford@gov.wales and your MS (if different from Julie Morgan).
COPY AND PASTE THIS MESSAGE, and add your own comments at the bottom ↴
(Email subject: Act Now to Prevent Environmental Disaster in Cardiff)
Dear Ms.Griffiths MS,
I am acutely aware of the relentless demands of COVID-19 on both you and your department and greatly appreciate all you do. So I wouldn’t write to you at this time if the matter was not urgent.
I am writing today in support of the Save the Northern Meadows campaign, who have contacted you over six times. I ask you to act to Save the Northern Meadows, 14 hectares of green space to the north of Whitchurch Hospital and directly adjacent on two sides to the Glamorganshire Canal and Forest Farm local nature reserve (LNR). The meadows themselves are a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) and an area of the Canal is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Building here would cause an environmental disaster for biodiversity in Cardiff. Building works are due to start in late January.
Therefore it is imperative you act now.
Time and options remain which could stop this disaster if you step in. The Nuffield Trust, commissioned by Velindre following advice from the Chief Medical Officer, advised the footprint of the new Velindre Cancer Centre (nVCC) should be radically changed. Velindre purchased ‘the Grange’ site in the mid 2010s intending to build the cancer centre there, yet ultimately stated this site was too small and chose to relocate to the meadow land offered by Cardiff and Vale University Health Board. Given that the healthcare model and its associated infrastructure must now be revised, work should not be permitted to begin on the meadows. The adjacent Grange Brownfield site should be reconsidered for the new centre so that the meadows are protected for present and future generations.
Save the Northern Meadows are calling for Transforming Cancer Services (TCS), the Welsh Government, and Cardiff Council to work with the community to identify a solution which uses the adjoining Whitchurch Hospital site and ‘the Grange’, but leaves the meadows unharmed and protected from any development.
- Working together could ensure the meadows are protected for future generations, allowing a self seeding urban forest to develop further;
- The proposed solution enables TCS, Velindre, and the Welsh Government live up to the requirements to ‘maintain and enhance’ ecosystems, which they are not doing at present;
- Such a solution would ensure the local community – where many live in flats and have no means to access the countryside – have access to nature, and space to roam during these lockdowns and in the future.
If you do not act, there will be significant, permanent harm to the meadows. The work will result in:
- Increased risk of flooding:
- Dangerous levels of air pollution:
- Harm to protected species:
- Felling of hundreds of trees:
- Housing resulting from the use of the meadows:
- Significance of Carbon Capture
- The loss of a significant community amenity:
These are highlighted further in the letter to you sent by Save the Northern Meadows on the 19th of January 2021. I do not need to remind you of the ample national and international legislation which requires you to protect and enhance biodiversity, presented in more detail in the letter sent by Save the Northern Meadows, including:
- The Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992.
- The Rio Declaration, 1992.
- Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act, 2015.
- The Environment (Wales) Act, 2016.
You will note the requirement of the Convention on Biological Diversity article 8(e), with the obligation to ‘Promote environmentally sound and sustainable development in areas adjacent to protected areas with a view to furthering protection of these areas’. This reflects your numerous obligations under the Nature Recovery Action Plan. The ‘Nature Recovery Action Plan 2020-21’ also identifies:
- The requirement of ‘urgent short-term actions’ (section 6) including:
- Aligning the responses to the climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis;
- Providing spatial direction for action for biodiversity. Resilient ecological networks are needed everywhere to create mosaics across Wales, but further identification of ‘core resilience areas’ is needed in which to prioritise action;
- Improving the condition of the Protected Sites Networks.
Protecting the meadows will help directly implement the short term responses identified by the Nature Recovery Action Plan. Moreover, given the Welsh Government voted to declare a Climate Emergency, now really is the time to act swiftly to ensure coherence between your actions and existing environmental commitments.
We are asking Government Ministers to:
- Act urgently to prevent any enabling works (costing Velindre-estimated £26.9m) from going ahead on Northern Meadows and saving the biodiverse space of County importance currently at risk;
- Promise no further funding to this project and forbid further expenditure;
- Call in applications 20/01110/MJR and 20/00357/MJR, giving the community a stake in the development of Whitchurch Hospital;
- Work cooperatively with clinicians to identify the best option for cancer care for the people of South East Wales.
- Work cooperatively with us and and all local stakeholder groups and elected members to design a solution to the Northern Meadows and Whitchurch Hospital Site which maintains and enhances biodiversity and secures long term solutions for cancer treatment in Wales.
We also call for long term commitments from this Government to ensure communities are never put under such significant pressure and manipulation by a public body again:
- Investigate where so much went wrong so as to prevent such a disastrous waste of public money for an NHS project ever happening again;
- Save the Northern Meadows and railway cutting, by designating the area a Local Nature Reserve and forbidding any construction here in future.
ADD YOUR MESSAGE HERE
We are looking forward to your swift response.
In support of Save the Northern Meadows
We are calling for support and solidarity from individuals, groups, and campaigns from across Cardiff, as we face down the imminent development of the Northern Meadows. With the Nuffield Advice effectively demolishing the case for building on the Meadows, we are asking for the people of Cardiff to act with us to prevent the unnecessary destruction. Please share our call to action with your communities and organisations. They have also been posted on our website in PDF format. Please also indicate if you’d like us to keep in touch with more updates as we develop letter writing and other campaigning materials. We have many actions which can be easily taken at home, and will continue to monitor the situation on the ground with the community, and provide updates with ways people can help. Your support so far has been immense, demonstrating the people of Cardiff and South Wales care about saving green spaces and preserving what’s left of our environment. We look forward to moving forward together.We hope to keep working with you all to keep building this campaign and saving the meadows!
Nadolig Llawen, a Flwyddyn Newydd Da!
All the best, The Save the Northern Meadows Group
Please find attached a copy of a letter sent to Vaughan Gething MS and Julie Morgan MS, requesting they prevent any further development of the Transforming Cancer Services Project and save the northern meadows.
In the letter, we highlight the recommendations of the Nuffield Trust, the lies told by the public body, and our recommendations of how the Government can reconcile with the community and protect biodiversity whilst reconfiguring the project to ensure the people of South East Wales have access to the excellent Cancer Care they deserve.
This matter is crucial, as TCS seek to begin enabling works, spending £26.9 million of a Welsh Government Grant to build a road to nowhere. This is an unacceptable risk to the community and biodiversity following the Nuffield Advice and the Senedds declaration of a climate emergency. It would be a significant waste of public money and demonstrate negligence at the highest level. As a result, we hope you can urge the Ministers to stop the destruction and protect this community from any further development by seeking to implement our demands.
Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any further questions,
The Save the Northern Meadows Group
Letter to Ministers below:-
We are acutely aware of the relentless demands of COVID-19 on both you and your department and greatly appreciate all you do. So we wouldn’t write to you at this time were not urgent action forced upon us by others right now.
We believe that as a result of the Nuffield Advice; the economic impact of the Transforming Cancer Services (TCS) project, the threats to biodiversity and public health and wellbeing posed by the project, and the widespread community opposition to building on the Northern Meadows, you must act urgently to stop any and all construction relating to the enabling works and the new Velindre Cancer Centre.
We remind you:
- – Over 1,000 objections were submitted to four planning applications which were granted without covering community concerns;
- – Over 100 parents at Coryton Primary expressed concerns over their children’s health if the development goes ahead;
- – 11,000 people signed a petition asking the Government to stop the destruction;
- – 5,000 people called for an independent inquiry into the medical model and choice of site;
- – Hundreds of people protested in Whitchurch on multiple occasions;
- – And we joined over 1,000 people across Cardiff to call for environmental, racial, economic, and social justice in Wales in September.As a result, we sincerely hope we are able to work together to find a solution for the issue of the development of the Northern Meadows. We believe the only solution now recommends placing the nVCC Satellite centre on the Whitchurch Hospital, or alternative site. This would protect the Northern Meadows, and could enable the connecting of both sites with accessible pavements to allow cancer patients and people across Whitchurch to experience the healing powers of nature, without destroying the wonderful biodiversity which exists across the meadows, railway cutting, and Historic Gardens of Whitchurch Hospital. This option has already been widely supported by the community, who wish to
protect the meadows and continue the historic connection of the people of Whitchurch to the NHS.
The Nuffield Advice to the Velindre University NHS Trust compels immediate radical changes to the TCS project. The Advice recommends the downsizing of the cancer unit resulting in a much smaller land footprint for the Centre, stating it would be unreasonable for the project to continue with the current plan. As a result, Velindre itself has now begun drastically reducing its projected inpatient admission numbers.
Commonly, we have heard of the alleged time constraints regarding the rebuilding of UHW, which is being used to block co-location. This lacks definitive proof and is largely an assumption. All because the less expensive option had been sidelined by TCS, who have spent the last six years and £20 million researching and developing this outdated project, with little to show for it.
- – The safety of cancer patients drives this dramatic change, just as already supportedby most senior clinicians in the region.
- – The key criteria of excellence in cancer care, must be co-located at UHW assoon as possible: in-patient care, research, training education resources.
- – For a period Velindre must continue on a suitable stand-alone site as a radiotherapy and chemotherapy unit, focusing on outpatient treatment, assessment, processing, counselling etc, but this will end when a suitable acute site has been located.The following list contains conclusions, recommendations and implications to be drawn from the Nuffield Trust’s advice to the Velindre NHS Trust and TCS:
- – Co-Location at UHW (University Hospital Wales) is the gold standard especially for safety (This is clearly described in Appendix One of the Document).
- – The Transforming Cancer Services (TCS) Programme has been insular and as such has failed to properly engage key stakeholders.
- – Recent proposals by TCS appear to be reactive to circumstances rather than proactive.
- – 6 years and £20 Million have not provided a blueprint to transform cancer services. The plan is simply to replicate current services.
- – Failure to co-locate threatens patient safety, research, teaching programmes.
- – The redevelopment of Velindre Cancer Centre at UHW is a once in a lifetime opportunity to transform cancer services for the whole of South East Wales, yet this opportunity may be missed through inflexibility, inaction or partiality.
- – Transforming Cancer Services should never have been the responsibility of a single organisation that delivers only part of the pathway. The whole regional network, transparent, accountable and well led, is the key to excellence.Despite these conclusions, TCS have put redundant contracts out to tender, seeking to begin pointless, damaging enabling works. So, we ask urgently – why has the outmoded business case from November not been formally and publicly set aside, and the project halted? Surely, such damning advice demands a rethink of the entire project and the executive staff entrusted with providing excellent cancer care for South East Wales, of which they have clearly failed and exacerbated a dangerous situation.Accordingly, you must act to halt this project on the Northern Meadows. Enabling works are, as we write, being progressed by TCS, wasting even more public money. This is malpractice with public funds and only you can stop it. No further advice to your department is needed to enable good judgement. The first stage of decision is being forced upon you by TCS jumping the gun without incorporating the Nuffield Advice.They are pursuing the beginning of this project, after repeatedly lying to yourself and the public regarding crucial aspects of the project, including:
- – How they engaged the public and medical staff within the Centre, and how they accounted for the concerns of the hundreds of individuals who engaged in due process;
- – The number of emergency transfers from Velindre to UHW by ambulance, repeatedly stating there were ‘less than 30,’ when our Freedom of Information
Request identified a yearly average of over 100 transfers, many red and amber
- – The number of severe incidents on the site, including the cover-up of anunexpected death by not labelling the tragedy a ‘significant incident;’
- – The time it takes for emergency transfers to be made between Velindre and UHW(which Velindre said took ‘minutes’, but our FOI’s identified an average transfertime of nearly two hours, including an hour wait at the Centre itself);
- – The research conducted into their clinical model of choice, which they emphasisedwas robust, did not exist. Repeatedly emphasising the Barrett Report, which we subsequently identified by contacting Dr. Barrett herself did not include research on the model proposed by the Trust;
- – Repeatedly failing to comply with FOI requests, of which we still have at least two outstanding for over ten weeks. Surely this is an unacceptable way for a public body to behave.We must highlight that if you do not act, biodiversity of a County Importance (as identified by the developers), including the homes of bats, dormice, slow worms, grass snakes, and category red and amber listed birds will be destroyed, and pointless damage done to the Whitchurch Hospital Grade 2 Listed Historic Gardens and Chapel will occur. The open space of the meadow is already heavily used for health and wellbeing purposes, and will be denied to the wider community just as your Government implements another national lockdown.We ask why this must occur, as a number of suitable alternatives have been identified for the Centre, including the Grange, site K of Whitchurch Hospital (with a planning application seeking to put a 200 bed hospital there). We also query why the new Covid centre at UHW cannot be considered as an alternative space for the nVCC post pandemic, given that (1) this will be available much quicker than a new hospital could be built on the meadows and (2) it is a more suitable location according to the Nuffield report and the clinicians who have spoken out about the standalone model?Should the project continue, you will be willfully polluting and harming our community by removing our only access to open space; failing to acknowledge the deathly
impact of increased air pollution, whilst committing to locking many of us in gardenless flats for an unspecified amount of time. This will be in violation of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, as well as your own policies which seek to maintain and enhance biodiversity. As Nuffield requires significant downscaling of the centre, surely the balance between necessity and the community now moves in favour of the community.
Therefore, we ask you to:
- Act urgently to prevent any enabling works from going ahead and saving the biodiverse space of County importance currently at risk;
- Promise no further funding to this project and forbid further expenditure;
- Call in applications 20/01110/MJR and 20/00357/MJR, giving the community astake in the development of Whitchurch Hospital;
- Work cooperatively with clinicians to identify the best option for cancer carefor the people of South East Wales.
- Work cooperatively with us and Julie Morgan MS to design a solution to theNorthern Meadows and Whitchurch Hospital Site which maintains and enhances biodiversity and secures long term solutions for cancer treatment in Wales.
We also call for long term commitments from this Government to ensure communities are never put under such significant pressure and manipulation by a public body again:
- Investigate where so much went wrong so as to prevent such a disastrous waste of public money for an NHS project ever happening again;
- Save the Northern Meadows and railway cutting, by designating the area a Local Nature Reserve and forbidding any construction here in future.
The Save the Northern Meadows Group
Below is our letter sent to Councillors this morning, when we discovered Velindre have fundamentally altered their plans for the Northern Meadows. This means the decision made today is based on incurred and inaccurate submissions to the planning committee, and the application must be rejected to avoid unacceptable harm to a nature reserve, SINC, and SSSI, increase air pollution, harm our cultural heritage, and remove this community from its only access to green space.
Join us and call for this permission to be rejected now by emailing your councillors, and watch the application be heard at committee here: https://fb.me/e/cNiyNLCws
24 hours was all it took to show we were correct in our recent letter to you.
1. Cardiff Planning pulled several applications from today’s agenda, so it really can be done at short notice.
2. Bat ecologists appeared yesterday around the Northern Meadows site, normally a precursor to work on site rapidly following. New Velindre is as bold as we said when it doesn’t yet have permissions. We didn’t over-dramatise.
3. Senedd [Petitions] Committee yesterday took Nuffield very seriously indeed. Regarding our petition it reported to us that ‘as a result of further detailed information’ it is writing the Minister for Health and Social Services and is:
· ‘requesting an update following the Nuffield advice to Velindre’ and ‘a timeline for further consideration of the business case’, and
· seeking a response to our further arguments ‘for a full independent review.’
4. It has emerged this week that Velindre has just changed their admissions policy, so that they will now have very few inpatients. There is now NO need for the 42 bed in patient unit proposed for the meadows, meaning the proposed development is fundamentally different from that permitted permission in 2017.
In other words, our warning to Councillors yesterday was indeed reliable. The last 24 hours raises a disturbing question in the public mind.
Why is Transforming Cancer Services pressing on with work at the Northern Meadows when, after Nuffield, everything’s changed beyond recognition and site-need assessment is back at square one?
A sceptical public will most likely choose its own answer to this conundrum from the following:
New Velindre thinks: “spend the money of taxpayer and possibly charity donors fast until it’s too embarrassing for authorities to turn back, Nuffield or not.”
New Velindre thinks: “the Planning Committee will never let us down after all this. We’re destined to get approval. The public already thinks planning is rigged so one more won’t make any difference.” New Velindre thinks: “the Minister is swamped with Covid 19, and the call-in will get neglected or pulled for a bit of peace.”
This matter need not concern Councillors any longer. The Council merely needs to authorise the pulling of the Northern Meadows applications today. Then everyone can relax over Christmas and watch until the new future of Velindre emerges from Nuffield repercussions and the new site-needs assessment. Please act now. It is Cardiff’s environment and health.
Save the Northern Meadow
How can NHS Trust justify £200m on new unit?
I WRITE in response to the letter from Professor Mead (“ambulance figures were misleading”, Echo letters November 9), challenging some aspects of previous correspondence questioning the safety of the service model for the New Velindre Cancer Centre.
This appears to be a partial and selective response.
No-one disputes the need for a new build to allow the incredible work undertaken by the staff at Velindre to continue.
The issue we have raised as clinicians concerns the proposed model for the New Velindre. The current hospital Is on a stand-alone site, unsupported by the many specialities required to care for actuely unwell patients.
At the New Velindre, there will be no surgery, interventional radiology, intensive care, on-site expertise for medicine, cardiology, neurology, gastroenterology, gynaecology. All of these require transfer to another site before specialist treatment can commence.
To the casual reader, the figures for 2019 presented by Prof Mead appeared acceptable, with “only” 11 Red Calls, which are immediate life-threatening emergencies such as cardiac/respiratory arrest and choking.
She did not mention the 69 Amber One and Two calls in the 105 x 999 calls in 2019. (63 Amber One, six Amber Two). These are not routine transfers. These patients need urgent help not available at Velindre.
The Amber One and Two categories include :
-Allergic reactions (not alert, difficulty breathing);
-Chest pains (abnormal breathing, changing colour, clammy, sweaty);
-Convulsion/fitting (continuous or multiple fits);
-Sick person (including not alert);
These were emergencies, in patients already sick due to the underlying illness that brought them to Velindre.
The idea of using the 999 system for routine transfers might be viewed as an abuse of the emergency system, denying patients in the community these vital resources.
Eighty times in 2019, Velindre needed to escalate care to an acute hospital via the 999 ambulance; 80 Red and Amber One and Two.
Similar figures were recorded for the preceding three years. The 25 Green calls using the 999 system may include patients transferred for treatment not available at Velindre.
The Trust has a duty to report any serious incidents to the Welsh Government. Prof Mead states:
“Over the past five years no serious incidents have been reported to the Welsh Government due to preventable deaths onsite relating to a delay in transfer to an acute hospital.”
The Freedom of Information inquiry included details of an unexpected death. Out of respect for the family, this will not be discussed to avoid distress.
The Trust stated in its FOI response:
“The case was not reported as a serious incident as it did not meet the threshold for reporting”
Is an unexpected death not a serious incident? What is the threshold for reporting an unexpected death at Velindre.
The trust also stated: “The organisation does not hold one overall system that collates all patient interventions and transfers. We can confirm patients are transferred to other acute hospitals for a range of interventions and the details are accessible by clinical staff in the individual patient record.”
There is no central database that collates the information for patients requiring escalation of care from Velindre to other units in South-East Wales. If Velindre NHS Trust does not know what is happening in the present, how can it plan the future?
How can it justify spending more than £200m on a new unit when it does not know what it needs to provide? The patients and staff deserve better.
DR Ray Monsell
MSc MBBCh FFSEM Dip Sport
Med Dip IMC RCSEd
A selection of sunset photos taken in the Northern Meadows during October 2020.
What must go in the objection:
If using the Cardiff Council portal you can just look around first as a guest:
Click Search > Planning > Simple_Search
To make an objection you must first register through any of the ‘register’ buttons. Not detailed or lengthy though have a password ready and expect to be asked for name, address & email address. They use this to inform you sometimes of significant developments on the application
Now you’re ready to go back and click on Comments or Document and you’re offered a page to write in.
Make sure you head it with and include the following:
- To Mr Justin Jones
- Planning number 20/01110/MJR
- If applicable: “This Objection goes with my previously voiced objection to this application.”
- ‘I wish (now) to object to the application above, 20/01110/MJR. This is for the following reasons (what follows can be helpfully bullet pointed or numbered):
Text formatting features will be wasted, so no point in italics, bold or underlining.
- Include the key concern:
- ‘I object’ on the grounds that one of the lodged documents has introduced a material change to the original application document 20/01110/MJR. It has applied for a new permanent road in an application clearly proposed as a: ‘Temporary Construction Access Route.’ It also included the promise that there would be no permanent access road except that already approved at the northern access point.
OPTIONAL CONTENT – pick and mix from one or more of the following plus your own brief take or impression (excluding abuse!):
In an additional document headed ‘New Velindre Cancer Centre Temporary Southern Construction Access Route, Section 3 – Enabling Works we read the following:
“The enabling works for the nVCC will create the new permanent access roads (via Asda to the North and Park Road from the SE)…” Park Road from the South East is elsewhere described as a temporary access.
The complete document is misleadingly entered in the Documents list as GIMS STATEMENT FINAL
The sentence above changes the nature of the entire application.
In fact it changes the nature of the original application in 2017 that was very clear on a single permanent access, namely from the north.
Promises to residents in the cursory consultation, accordingly, pledged that there would be no southern access route at all and now amended to say that no southern access route would be permanent.
Inserting a permanent route occurs quite deep: in a passage entitled Temporary Southern Access Route… inside a document called GIMS STATEMENT FINAL… found within an application for a Temporary Construction Access Route!
We do not feel the appointment of the Nuffield Trust to ‘advise’ Velindre on the nVCC model is near sufficient to address our concerns regarding the development. Here is the letter we have sent to politicians and the media regarding the chronic failings and inadequacies of the proposed model.
Dear Welsh Government Ministers and recipients,
Having campaigned since March for the duration of lockdown and now entering into a second lockdown; Save the Northern Meadows feel we must reaffirm and expand on our position regarding our petition ‘Hold an independent inquiry into the choice of site for the proposed new Velindre Cancer Centre’, as a result of the discussion and developments following the petitions committee meeting on the 15th of September.
- Vaughan Gething, Health Minister failed to comply with his statutory duty to respond to the Petitions Committee promptly. There has been no explanation nor apology for this.
- Velindre University NHS Trust failed to comply with the strict instructions provided for submissions to the committee. Despite the rigidity, we complied with the instructions, reducing hundreds of pages of information into just four. However the Trust felt sufficiently comfortable to violate these rules twice – submitting a 7 page letter to the committee for consideration, and attempting to sidetrack our request for an independent inquiry into the choice of site, by submitting at 08:59 their decision to employ the Nuffield Trust to review and advise their model. This action was plainly deliberate, disingenuous and designed to distract, divert and undermine the Petition and the Committee. The outstanding arrogance of such an action as a public body, is insulting and must not be tolerated.
- Our petition calls for an independent inquiry. The Trust in question has swiftly appointed the Nuffield Trust to advise. Nuffield shall be ‘advising on the clinical model.’ Whilst no question is being raised about this respected body’s capabilities and expertise to review and advise, to allow VCC to appoint its own adviser; over the Welsh Government appointing an independent inquiry is unacceptable. A body should be appointed independently of VCC, not commissioned by it, and a full inquiry conducted.
- Our submissions provided evidence of multiple failures by the Trust. The attempt of the Trust to appoint their own reviewer is bizarre and reeks of malfeasance. Surely the time to seek advice has passed as:
- Evidence from clinicians working at the Trust has been provided which casts significant doubt over the model of care proposed. During the consultations mentioned by the developers, these clinicians felt under pressure to support the nVCC. The Save the Northern Meadows campaign has helped these individuals to bravely come forward and voice their concerns. Yet those who have spoken out have been abused on social media. One Facebook group, organized by the wife of a member of Transforming Cancer Services whose very role is to push forward the development has claimed that the letters of concern are false, are not written by clinicians, and are “fake news”. The organizer even made a threat to report one doctor to the General Medical Council. The Trust has done nothing via social media to condemn the group’s inaccuracies, despite multiple individuals vilifying large numbers of NHS Doctors and attacking respected elected officials because they had the bravery to whistleblow.
- There is evidence the Trust has lied repeatedly regarding the number of emergency transfers needed between VCC and UHW. They have stated this number is less than 30. We hold a freedom of information request which states this number is closer to 100. Why is the Trust lying about such a serious aspect of patient care?
- There has been poor engagement by the Trust with the local community. Many local residents were wholly unaware of the applications until we raised awareness. The current pandemic and the closing of the local library made it very difficult for residents to find information, and by definition excluded those who did not have access to the internet.
- The Trust makes inconsistent submissions to the planning department. For example, in 2017 they estimated that ‘low’ levels of damage shall be done to the local nature reserve. In 2020, their estimate changed to ‘high’. How can this be the case? It grossly undermines the accuracy and quality of their assessments. There are countless such examples.
- The Trust claims the site is to promote the patient’s ‘healing experience’ and the counter-petition emphasised the ‘healing architecture.’ Yet no healing shall happen on site as there shall be no surgical unit. Further, there is significant evidence from 2014-17 which demonstrates the Trust pursued the site due to its potential for developing its educational qualifications and its brand with the addition of a Conference Centre – now named the Centre for Learning and Excellence. Yet in 2020, when building is about to start, the Trust cannot provide any details regarding what may or may not be included on this site. Why is this building with footprint this cost and size being blindly pursued when there is no architectural design, and no accurate projections for what shall actually be on site?
- The Trust have purported to engage with local groups including friends of forest farm and local sporting clubs. These have turned out to be shams. Based on these ‘consultations’ planning documents mislead members of the planning committee into believing those groups support the development. This was highlighted in particular when Friends of Forest Farm found itself having to publicly correct a wholly false and misleading statement made by the Trust within their Green Infrastructure Management Plan for 2020 (three years after planning permission was granted), who claimed they ‘manage the Country Park, Glamorganshire Canal and the Longwood SSSI.’ We are meant to believe the processes for environmental protection envisaged are robust, as required by Welsh Legislation. Yet the Trust does not even know who manages these areas for nature conservation, demonstrating the farcical consideration of environmental issues by this public body and the planning department.
- The Trust failed to give any, or any adequate consideration, to any brownfield sites, including the obvious location of Whitchurch Hospital and its grounds. Cadw were not engaged at the time regarding the possibilities of adapting or delisting Whitchurch Hospital. The £26.9 million granted for constructing access through a nature reserve could be spent better on acquiring a suitable site. Transforming, rebuilding and reusing a brownfield site would set Cardiff out as an innovative, strategic and forward thinking capital city, investing in expanding green infrastructure across the city. This can still be pursued. Although developers have argued relocating the project at this late stage would cause significant delays, the project director himself stated in 2017 that all the planning work would not have to be redone. Clinicians have also denied changing the site would result in damaging delays to service provision.
- The Trust have failed to address the real risk of the development increasing flood risk to the houses bordering the Glamorganshire Canal, proposing surface water from the site should be drained into the canal via the nature reserve.
- The Trust have spent £17million pound and ten years on their project so far, have accomplished very little, failing to address or even acknowledge the basic unanswered questions regarding the model of cancer care. Unmanaged spending is reflected by the purchase of ‘the Grange.’ £6 million was spent on acquiring the site, for it then to be disregarded and the meadows chosen for development – despite the Welsh Government’s statements VCC should use a site already owned by the NHS. No business case is available as publishing costs could prejudice the future of the site – because moving to the meadow shall cost significantly more than building on the Grange. Such flippant treatment of public funds should not be accepted or ignored. The very fact of this smacks of a vanity project. Why do they refuse to deal with this? They fail to acknowledge many other concerns raised by us, which shall be provided in Annex A below.
To allow the Trust to continue with their own ‘review’ of their own model would be a mockery of good governance and the future generations and Nolan Principles.
Why is the Trust afraid of an independent, external review even after six years of planning? If ‘advice’ is taken over an external independent inquiry and independent clinical review of the model, the Trust will continue to violate the Nolan Principles, harm the local community, harm nature, and harm the cancer care provided to future generations.
We call on Ministers to act decisively and urgently. The time to act is now.
Enabling work is due to start, and huge, eye watering sums of public money are at stake. We accept we urgently need updated cancer services. Damaging the long-term health of our community and our environment is not a sustainable way to achieve this. As well as local health and safety, hundreds of trees, bats, hedgehogs, grass snakes, red and amber listed birds and their habitats, among many others are in danger.
This very legislature voted to acknowledge the climate emergency. We know Cardiff may be under water in less than 30 years. Castle Street has been closed to try and reduce the increasing pollution. Earlier this year we saw appalling extreme flooding all through South Wales and Cardiff; are we to pretend this isn’t affecting us?
How much evidence, how many emergencies, how loud do we have to shout, how many protests do we have to organise before Ministers listen and understand we cannot afford this development to go ahead on this land?
As Cardiff enters its second lockdown, these facts are even more relevant. Should construction begin now, over two hundred households will be condemned to dust pollution from the construction site, pollution which shall continue for at least four years, likely causing life limiting illnesses within this community. There are no alternate green spaces or gardens for this community. However, there are plenty of alternative building sites. We know these were not adequately considered by the Health Board in the first place because of grandiose, ill-defined ambitions, and their only response is they want to build on the meadow as it is “healing”. This is an oxymoron. Beautiful, sensitive gardens can be built around a hospital on a brownfield site. Why use millions of pounds of public money to destroy them in the first place? An independent inquiry would provide a proper analysis of the finance as well as clinical considerations.
As a result of the above, our submissions to the petitions committee, our submissions to the planning committee of Cardiff Council, and the submissions made by the local and national clinicians questioning the proposed model of care, allowing Velindre University NHS Trust to continue to dictate the terms of its own review would constitute an utter violation of the principles of good governance and neglect the communities of Coryton, Whitchurch, Rhiwbina, Llandaff North and North Cardiff, as well as the wider medical and scientific communities in Wales.
We urge the Ministers to consider the health of present and future generations with the highest esteem, and with this in mind, commit to a truly independent inquiry into the choice of site of the new Velindre Cancer Centre.
The Save the Northern Meadows Team
nVCC has claimed repeatedly in publicity that 60% of the Northern Meadows will remain intact after the development. This simply can’t match nVCC’s own ground plan. Copied below and widely used by the media (see below). Strips of foliage around the development’s fringes is deceitful as dismembered foliage wouldn’t count as ‘meadow.’ Furthermore, across planning applications and meeting minutes, the assertion other sites are too small as they shall not allow for expansion demonstrates the building will certainly expand and encroach upon the nature reserve in future.
This image is also deceitful, as it appears to show the forest within the railway cutting between the Hollybush Estate and the new site shall remain intact, as does Lady Corey Field. This shall not be the case, as to construct the access bridge from Asda, construction vehicles must access the space below. Meaning the forested area shall almost completely be destroyed in the attempt to access the site.
Furthermore, Lady Corey Filed was given to the community by Lady Corey for recreational purposes only. The community has not given consent for the space to be used, yet the plans show the planting of two trees in the centre of the field (presumably as ‘mitigation’ for the 600 lost in the railway cutting) as well as the construction of pathways and a railway track through the area.
Save the Northern Meadows submission to the petitions committee: https://business.senedd.wales/documents/s104403/09.09.20%20Correspondence%20-%20Petitioner%20to%20Committee.pdf
Campaigner Cat Lewis discusses experience as a cancer patient campaigning to save the meadows: https://savethenorthernmeadows.wales/velindre-patient-shares-meadows-story/
Open letter by Dr. Ashley Roberts: https://savethenorthernmeadows.wales/open-letter-by-dr-ashley-roberts/
Survey results of 400 local people and our view of the development and meadows: https://savethenorthernmeadows.wales/survey-results/
A handful of individual responses submitted in objection to three applications: https://planningonline.cardiff.gov.uk/online-applications/files/73E2BC401EFCC48E745FB458611A4D7A/pdf/20_01108_MJR-OBJECTION_-_DATA_-_SAVE_THE_NORTHERN_MEADOWS_-_EMAIL-2342475.pdf
The ‘real’ save the northern meadows story, detailing the issues facing the local community and the horrendous abuse we have been subjected to: https://savethenorthernmeadows.wales/the-real-save-the-northern-meadows-story/
The Gair Rhydd take on the campaign:
Information on climate change and the importance of preserving biodiversity where we have it:
Saving meadows (Plantlife):
Two in five plants are threatened with extinction (Natural History Museum):
UK in the relegation zone for nature, reveals Natural History Museum and RSPB:
- The Uk is the G7 country with the smallest proportion of its biodiversity left
Cardiff ranks low on the green spaces table (wales online):
And is the 6th most at risk city in the world from climate change (wales online):
‘The areas of Wales set to be underwater in 30 years due to climate change’ (wales online):
Yet the least damaging phase of the plans shall cut down 122 trees (wales online):
Yet MS Janet Finch-Saunders has called for a review regarding the impact of tree felling on flooding:
Wales should be the leader in preserving biodiversity, as envisioned by the Future Generations and Environment Acts, as well as the decision to declare a climate emergency. As a result of increases in flooding in the area – including flooding at the foot of the Glamorganshire canal – the decision to drain surface water into the canal (discharge of condition 17 on the planning portal) could exacerbate local flooding, as trees must be felled by the development.
At a time when the world has failed to meet ANY biodiversity targets, the destruction of a greenfield site by a Government purporting to care about climate change is laughable.
People want a green recovery to Covid-19:
And we have seen calls for areas to be re-greened in order to help millions of people to access green areas. The meadow used to be an industrial site, and could demonstrate to the UK what re-greening takes.
Annex D: Friends of Forest Farm Clarification
Again, groups of volunteers are being held responsible for correcting VCC’s false assertions within their planning documents.
Annex E: Changing impact on the nature reserve
Identified within attached: Letter re Discharge of Conditions 10,13,14,16,17.
Annex G: Examples of Inconsistencies
Footnote 8 demonstrates how conditions set out by the Welsh Government never allowed the Trust to consider brownfield sites. Yet in public correspondence it is repeatedly stated brownfield sites were considered. This response was sent to a member of Save the Northern Meadows on the 22nd of September 2020:
I apologise for the time it has taken to respond to your email.
We do understand your concerns about the choice of location for the new centre.
We chose the northern meadows site because it will provide a much better experience for our patients. It will be much easier for them to get to because we know that three-quarters of our patients come from the M4 or down the A470. They will no longer have to travel into the village of Whitchurch. The site’s green outlook will also provide patients with a much better healing experience, contrasting with the current Velindre location.
Before selecting the site, we looked at other options including brownfield sites. None were suitable.
The Welsh Government funds the new Velindre Cancer Centre project, including public information. Whilst I appreciate that you may disagree with some of what we are saying, we are seeking to inform people so that they understand what we are proposing and why. We will continue to communicate with the local community throughout the project so that we can develop an amenity that works for everybody.
We are seeking to develop part of the site, not all of it, and we believe we can enhance it in many ways, including its biodiversity. We want to work with members of the community to make our ambitions a reality and I hope you will be prepared to have your say when we do this.
On behalf of David Powell,
The assertion only part of the site will be developed is also false. In many documents and communications from the Trust, it has been stated Whitchurch Hospital site is too small for development as there is no space for expansion – a statement refuted by Annex H.
Therefore, the community cannot trust the Trust will not expand to the whole of the meadow site as demand increases. Indeed, this is all the more possible as the Trust will be decreasing the number of hospital beds on site to 42.
From planning committee conditions page:
1. DESCRIPTION OF PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT
1.1 Outline permission is sought for a 42 bed cancer centre, conference/learning and research centres and Maggie’s Centre with associated infrastructure, including a double decked car park and energy centre.
Chapter 4 of the environmental statement
4.2.3 The new Velindre Cancer Centre will comprise a maximum 40,000 sq.m of gross internal floor area for Cancer health services (planning use classes: C2 Residential Institutions, and D1 Non-residential institutions). No surgical treatment will be undertaken at the centre, but space for the delivery of the following critical services will be provided: radiotherapy; chemotherapy; pharmacy; inpatient beds; outpatients services; support services; and imaging. A conference centre facility will also be provided.
4.2.6 The building will be between two and three storeys.
The assertion no surgical treatment will be undertaken at the centre voids the statement in the VCC response to the public that the meadows will provide the best ‘healing experience.’ Without a surgical unit no healing will take place at the site.
In addition, inconsistent messaging abounds regarding the conference centre mentioned in 1.1.
Below is an interview with Deputy Health Minister Julie Morgan.
Are there plans to build a conference centre as the wording in the planning application refers to this?
VELINDRE SAID: No, the ‘conference centre’ will be a ‘Centre for Collaborative Learning’.
5.4 in the above Planning Permission: The proposed site will also include a conference centre, which would be an integral part of the facility, with additional parking only being required for those attending a conference/event in the centre. Despite the reasonably sustainable nature of the location, with direct rail links to Cardiff Central railway station (via the half hourly service from the adjacent Coryton Station) it is considered that additional parking would still be required for those attending the facility.
This is not a minor change because it must have figured in the search for a particular size of site. It’s presumed in the floor space according to the Planning Permission.
Within the same Q&A, another inconsistency, and lie emerges as told by the Trust:
I’ve been told that the number of emergency calls to Velindre is higher than the 30 per year stated. Is this correct?
VELINDRE SAID: We treat tens of thousands of patients at the cancer centre every year and fewer than 30 patients a year on average need an unplanned emergency transfer. Of these 30 patients, fewer than 10 patients a year are critically unwell and have access to the Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTs) who can assess, stabilise and transfer these unwell patients to the University Hospital of Wales (UHW). UHW is less than three miles away and can be reached within minutes. [ed. resorting to EMRTs to cloud the main point: 100 x 999 calls]. If the new cancer centre was on a large acute site, the size of the site could still mean that patients need an ambulance transfer.
The clinical team has a freedom of information request that clearly states these transfers are actually closer to 100 a year – nearly three times the numbers stated.
Planning applications are also periodically updated and changed, causing significant stress for the community.
For example – the community fought hard to secure a 9 month temporary access road via Park Road and into Whitchurch Hospital in 2017, of which they were reassured would be sufficient for the building work.
In 2020, this was proposed to be extended to 48 months by application 20/01110/MJR. Yet the community noticed in proposals for Whitchurch Hospital within application 20/00357/MJR, Park Road was a key access for new houses proposed.
Now it appears these fears have been confirmed, with doc 20_01110_MJR-201001_GIMS_STATEMENT_-_FINAL-2375378.pdf starting within the first paragraph of section 3 that this will now be a permanent access road. Yet as highlighted in many documents, the Trust stated this project will take traffic out of Whitchurch. They also repeatedly and categorically denied the temporary access road would become permanent in March of this year (see ‘engagement Chris Lines access rd). With this change, the Trust has finally demonstrated how little they care for the local community, or for basic honesty and the Nolan Principles.
Annex H: Cadw not engaged re use of Whitchurch Hospital
Please see attachment letter: FW/ Conference Centre and Cadw
Please see also ‘FW/ Whitchurch Hospital Cardiff Comms’ 1 and 2
Flooding and Drainage to Nature Reserve
Find images of flooding off of Forest Farm Road in February attached to email.
Discharge of Condition 17 relates to the proposal to drain surface water into the Glamorganishre Canal.
£17 million spent on a project with no architectural design, and no physical work completed over six years.
See attachment: Velindre FOI_TCC Budget CORP
No information available regarding actual site design, including conference centre:
(PDF Version attached: FW/ Conference Centre and Cadw)
“The Collaborative Centre for Learning, Technology and Innovation will contribute to the transformation of the way in which care is planned, organised and delivered across south east Wales.
We do not have any detailed plans for the centre at the moment but we are not planning for a separate building. We estimate it would need about 350m2 of space within the new cancer centre.
As such, I cannot say how many meeting rooms it will hold and what capacity they have and what hospitality facilities it may need. So, the answers to your questions are:
What is proposed capacity?
It’s too early to say.
How many conference rooms will be involved?
It’s too early to say.
3. Does it include accommodation?
No, it won’t.
Does it include hospitality facilities including a bar?
There may be a need for some hospitality facilities but we will not want a bar.
How many car going spaces are attached to it?
We have parking spaces for 43 visitors to the cancer centre and this will include visitors to the Collaborative Centre.
How many staff needed, how much parking spaces will they require?
We do not have plans at the moment to recruit additional staff for the Collaborative Centre. We will accommodate any staff parking within the limits set of our planning permission.”
Footnotes were removed by formatting. Key footnote information is below:
View the increase in submissions against application 20/00357/MJR following mid May. On May 22nd, Tessa HM posted the application link to the Save the Northern Meadows facebook group. Following this, over 50 objections were raised, and MS Julie Morgan and MP Anna McMorrin now agree the application should not proceed. Many who used the meadow daily were not aware of the development, even in March 2020.
Paras 2.96 – 2.97, Strategic Outline Programme (2014) <http://www.transformingcancerservices.wales/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Strategic-Outline-Programme-Redacted.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2oBt-ieysD3zR0giOISUZrKevCNjDltMAotlImNXOuZtrbD1o7Trgj0T8>;
Para 2.14 and Fig 2-10. Programme Business Case: Economic Case Section (2017) <http://www.transformingcancerservices.wales/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Confidential-Programme-Business-Case-for-Transforming-Cancer-Services-MARK-UP_Redacted-FINAL.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0VOkqvp8v7h5lubxnNk3c8Ym5qlP-vQuQ4XBgQvJUWb12PdOZZpP3vnmA>
Doctors from outside and within Velindre have questioned the model as highlighted by our statement to the petitions committee and WalesOnline and the BBC
The project is estimated to cost around £218 million under the MIM model, which could see the public pay back up to four times what was initially spent. This sum does not include the – estimated – £26.9 million for enabling works.
Find the Nolan Principles here http://www.wales.nhs.uk/governance-emanual/nolan-principles
I made an attempt to tell my story on the ‘support velindre’ fb group and on the Velindre official page, as we in STNM are constantly being told – ‘don’t comment unless you’ve experienced cancer’. It appears both have been removed or are very well hidden. Here it is – please do share if you want to.
I am a cancer patient of Velindre. Here’s my story.
Two years ago i was diagnosed with breast cancer at Llandough Breast Centre. I had so many biopsies, scans, blood tests and information in that first 6 weeks, I was a complete mess, physically and emotionally. Then came the lymph node biopsy surgery. And yes, the cancer was there too.
So it was onto 15 weeks of chemo at Velindre. I had two visits to UHWH during for emergency treatment for infections. I also had psychiatric sessions at LLandough, with a specialist breast nurse consultant, when I wanted to die. Six weeks to recover and then I was back to Llandough for surgery – a unilateral mastectomy and full sentinel lymph clearance. No reconstruction was possible then as after another six weeks of recovery, I started radiation therapy, again at Velindre. Physiotherapy during all this was via the breast centre and also at Velindre. I still visit the lymphodoema clinic at Cardiff Infirmary.
I am on Tamoxifen chemical therapy for 10 years. This put me into total menopause, causing uncontrollable sweats, chronic joint pain, agonising leg cramps, endometrial polyps, mood swings, anxiety and massive fatigue. I have not been able to have reconstruction yet, at Morriston Swansea, because of Covid-19.
So, that’s my cancer story. . . Only it doesn’t end there.
This week I have been back to UHWH for a nuclear bone scan, followed by an x-ray – as there is something amiss. Now I have the wait again.
The anxiety of a diagnosis and the treatment decisions that follow.
The night before my scan appointment, I walked from my little flat, along the shady wooded path, across the meadow fields, where I then lay. I listened to the breeze in the trees and the birds, happily unaware of my anxiety. Being in nature always calms. . . except now I have a greater anxiety than the needles I would be facing and the claustrophobic scan to come the next day.
That anxiety is that this wonderful, wild and special place may be lost to a development – for a place where I may end up being treated again. Do I want that here on the meadow, more than to be able to sit beneath these ancient oaks and watch majestic herons? No. Throughout my treatment, I walked and cycled to my treatments and out in nature whenever I could, sometimes with help, taking in natural surroundings, seeing a bigger picture of life.
This is not where the new cancer centre should go. There are other sites. There are other ways. Nature and our environment is our life support system. It is more important than my life – than any one person’s life – it is about our survival as a race on a planet in crisis. It is about my unborn grandchild having air it can breathe, wild woodland to play in, and better health. Because we and those in power, stopped ignoring the climate emergency and took the drastic actions that are required to avert unprecedented disasters affecting our children’s futures.
I am like you – my life altered forever by cancer. And like you I have a right to stand up for my beliefs without being bullied, called awful names and had cancer wished upon me and my family. I’ve even seen it suggested that I should not be allowed treatment at velindre because I want the meadows saved. This has come from the people organising and speaking on this ‘caring’ group, who who profess to care about and support cancer patients.
The anxiety I have suffered during this time of uncertainty about my life has been debilitating.
If you are interested in the people, reasons and facts behind the Save the Meadows campaign, please take 5 minutes to read this post. We are just like you. People. with Cancer in our lives, and love in our hearts.
Written by Cat Lewis
Back on the 19th June we wrote an open letter asking for the Welsh Government to ‘call-in’ development of the Northern Meadows, something that’s been a shadow over our community for the last 20 years. Supported by many organisations and key individuals, we are still waiting for a reply.
Here’s the letter:-
What kind of people are we? The answer is: we are the same as you – human.
We are not a special breed of person unaffected by cancer or not fearing what it could do to us or to our loved ones. We are not immune to its grasp. Cancer does notdiscriminate. Some of us are patients too, some have, or are currently supportingloved ones through treatment. Others of us have sadly lost people to this awful disease. Many of us have experienced the agonising wait for results for ourselves or the people we love. We have had the sleepless nights and feared the worst. Some of us have received devastating news and taken the long and agonising journey that is cancer. Others of us have been fortunate to receive good news at that point; whilst knowing that any one of us may not be so lucky next time. We are no different from you.
So of course we’ve never opposed better cancer care. When it is told that we’reopposing the development of the centre, we urge people to not simply accept this and react with rage or despair without further thought or question. It would be nonsensical not to want better cancer care. Still, we have seen post after post on social media reporting such errors about us, as “if they’d ever gone through this they wouldn’t be objecting;” “if it was their family;” “I hope they never need Velindre’sservices” and more cruel posts, stating that anyone who wants a review or disagrees with the site should forfeit any future care and so should their families.
The issues that brought STNM about were those of protecting the environment and doing what is right for the community both local and much wider. This campaign indeed began as an environmental and public health campaign: a campaign to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of thousands of local people and to object to the over-development of Whitchurch – a densely populated community, already subjected to high levels of air pollution due to being positioned adjacent to the M4, the A470 and Coryton roundabout – one of the busiest roundabouts in Wales, and to frequently congested roads and queuing traffic. We also wanted to see the abandoned, listed Whitchurch Hospital put to use once again.
Now the campaign has adopted pursuit of the right medical model for the new Velindre. Any campaign point here is never about the staff team on the ground working at Velindre now, the ones the nation has applauded every Thursday. It is the Transforming Cancer Services plans and the best location for the future cancer care centre.
We are not NIMBYs – we have happily lived alongside Velindre and Whitchurch Hospitals for decades and we aspired to have the new Velindre Cancer Centre housed on the Whitchurch Hospital site. The NIMBY label simply does not fit here.
All this is important to say.
We are aware some people have been offended by our campaign. This is an emotive topic which inevitably causes distress. But the distress to those under the weight of cancer might only be increased by angry posts they see on social media, demonising and scapegoating others. This has been, and continues to be, exacerbated by the misrepresentation of our campaign by another online group. This group’s narrative has sought to create a division between the campaigners and Velindre.
For one Facebook group has repeatedly accepted comments from followers, like, “It beggars belief;” “What sort of people are they?;” “They can’t ever have been touched by cancer,” and its moderators seem to do very little to correct this narrative. In fact, this opinion is frequently encouraged by moderators who reply with a knowing response or with an acknowledging emoji. The misinformation spreads, misunderstandings are soon legitimised and then the divisions widen.
Shocking myths told about STNM
It’s important to STNM’s integrity and truthfulness with the public that urban myths about us are challenged. STNM was astonished during the summer at the narrative flowing from a social media site opposed to our campaign. It claimed that Velindrestaff had been “abused” and “shouted at” and created the image that staff needed to be protected from campaigners. There was even a most serious accusation made on the site that a member of staff was spat at by one of our supporters. The Facebook group’s founders claimed that this matter was being dealt with by senior managers.
Here’s why none of this can be true. Abuse of a front-line worker is a criminal offence and Velindre has a duty of care to their staff to report this to the police. But no crime number exists for this alleged attack. We would welcome evidence of these alleged abuses as we deplore any such behaviour. Any such wrongdoers certainly do not speak or act in our name.
On the contrary, Velindre staff members have come to speak to us on the street at our STNM display stands and have chosen to share with us that they work at Velindre.
Would they do this if they felt threatened and scared by us? A number have signed our petitions and tell us that many staff members at Velindre disagree with the current proposals but are afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs or having to endure a difficult work life. Of course, some we have spoken with are in support of the development and we have respectfully and calmly been able to share our differing viewpoints with one another, without incident, anger of fear.
These staff members we have met in the community have also told us that Velindre’s day-to-day running and work are quite separate from the Transforming Cancer Services project, who are proposing this build. A number have said that they do not really know much about it and staff have not really been consulted or kept informed.
It is fantastic to read online about how the staff team at Velindre are valued and have provided comfort to so many at the most incredibly difficult and frightening times a person may face. However, nobody we know has ever suggested otherwise.
A group online has managed to mould a narrative that staff and the incredible work happening at Velindre is being challenged or devalued by our campaign. And in hearing this, rightly so, people are jumping to their defence. This could not be further from the truth. As we have said above, the questions asked of the Transforming Cancer Services project must to be distinguished from the great day to day staff and work at Velindre.
Sad to say, misinformation about us is extreme. We have been accused of being liars countless times. Of “dirty tactics” and “low blows.” We have absolutely no need or desire to lie. Apparently we have made things up about the car parking, the HGV lorry journeys, the number of beds and the damage to the environment. However, all these facts are visible in the planning and other documents which are in the public domain.
We were accused of “lying” being “low”, being “sad” when we advised that we had contacted the Police and Velindre in relation to threatening posts against a permitted march in September that STNM joined with 20 other recognised groups. We did not lie. Threats really were made on a Facebook group and we had a duty of care to report them. To their credit, Velindre replied to say they “deplored the comments made.” That email is not a secret. It will be made available on our website.
All the same we were called “pathetic” and told we were “wasting police time” etc. The vitriolic response online to the march by some was quite shocking. The language of many was highly inappropriate, yet seemingly condoned by moderatorsof the same online group. We do not know the people who made the serious threats and so we had no way of knowing if these words could actually turn into actions. Furthermore, the aggression and hatred aimed at us was visible to thousands of members of that group and so could incite somebody else to action.
The same group has multiple posts and comments vilifying us. Screenshots can validate all of the following comments posted in just the last two weeks alone on the offending Facebook site:
We “have shite for brains; are only worried about our house prices; lead cosy lives, are unaffected by cancer; only want land to walk our dogs on; spread misinformation; We are “tossers; uncaring; thoughtless; selfish; pathetic tree hugging smelly hippie dippie freaking weirdos; absolutely pathetic; shameful; a bunch of morons; Covidiots; vile people; embarrassing; childish; snakes in the grass; insignificant people; bitter; miserable; lacking integrity; liars; low; sad; heartless; NIMBYs; idiots; a load of fools; riddled with bitter (sic); absolute cretin; lonely; putting selfishness over lives; attention seeking hypocrites; infantile; quasi environmentalists; the most selfish group ever; selfish people who would soon jump sides if we or loved ones had cancer; pools of germs spreading people.”
We have been mocked, ridiculed and threatened. In amongst all this a member of the same site has called us “bullies.” This is all mixed in together with so much negativity, hatred and vindictiveness, and it is really sad to see how some – a minority – can speak about other human beings, without ever having met them and more seriously, often without having the full account of what this is all about.
However, it’s evident that patients, former patients, family and friends need an avenue to share experiences and support one another. Personal stories shared even on the online group critical of us are inspiring, brave and heartfelt. It is truly an awful illness which devastates families, and none of us have had the privilege of avoiding it. We want to extend our heartfelt sympathies to you and your family, and to all those who have experienced the devastation of cancer. Many of us share these experiences with you.
Some have suggested we lack integrity, humanity and compassion but when we are being called these terrible names, we invite consideration from those posting, of the impact of their words, and reflection on the vitriol aimed at fellow human beings. These may be people who share similar experiences, or who are grieving, unused to conflict and encountering such hatred. Also those who are elderly, vulnerable or unwell. Such venom can be triggering for those who have experienced past trauma or abuse. It is unkind, cruel and unnecessary.
Despite allegations to the contrary, we welcome debate. Our group is public for this reason.
Often when groups are private, we notice debate is not always welcomed. Just to ask a question or diverge from the strict narrative can result in blocking and the offending post being quickly deleted. Before making a decision and being wholeheartedly in favour of something, it’s crucial to have a rounded view of the facts.
STNM’s Local Concerns
The facts definitely missing from certain social media posts are what drive the STNM campaign. These include:
- This development will have a significant impact on the everyday lives of the thousands of people who live and access this area daily. Our critics should be aware that there is a primary school, sheltered accommodation and a block of flats on the Hollybush Estate metres away from where the emergency access road will be constructed. Vulnerable and elderly people are housed here, many with multiple health issues, as well as families with young children.
- Critics should also be aware a residential school for children and young people with severe autism backs onto the development. This means any noise from the construction and operation of the site shall permanently impact their education and care. Daily, pupils from this school are seen going for walks along Pendwyallt Road with support staff to assist them and ensure they remain safe. They also use the meadows and railway cutting for outdoor education, recreation and wellbeing. It must be a difficult and agonising decision for a parent to send a child with special needs to a residential setting and we imagine that the access their children have to green space and tranquillity within a city setting plays an important part in their decision making. This will no longer be accessible to them. The school has also opposed the build on the meadows site due to concerns for their pupils.
- In order to reduce collisions with cyclists, the developers will remove guardrails from Pendwyallt Road, putting the children and pedestrians accessing school, Asda, or just going for a walk at risk with up to 200 HGV journeys on this road every day to and from the construction site. One such guardrail is outside one of the primary school’s entrances and on the corner of Whitworth Square where hundreds of people live. These guardrails are essential. This would be a tragedy waiting to happen.
- The emergency access road will run directly through the estate and past sheltered accommodation, and along a route walked by nursery and primary school children. Children also play outside their flats along this route. They do not have gardens. This clearly presents a risk to the community.
- For the hundreds of flats on the Hollybush estate the meadows are their only access to green space. Consider how much cancer and other life-limiting illness will be caused to these people by exposure to the construction pollution for over four years. The harm to their wellbeing and mental health at having to endure such a massive project on their doorsteps. And the permanent additional pollution and loss of green space and trees which currently clean the dirty air emitted from junction 32. It is proven that pollution can impact negatively on a child’s development. What about pregnant women? Those raising families? Those who attend school next door to the development? Those living with respiratory and other conditions? Those who are elderly? These are people too, and they absolutely deserve a say in this, as we all do.
- The meadows are surrounded on 3 sides by Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and nature reserve. Throughout the planning process developers have stated that impacts on these important sites will be “negligible”; will be “low”. The Environmental Statement released a few weeks ago now states that the impact will be “high”. Further documents released in August propose draining surface water during construction into the canal and feeder river below. Not only will this destroy biodiversity and do irreparable harm to the SSSI and nature reserve but it is adding to the flood risk.
- A number of homes adjacent to the canal and along the river were flooded earlier this year. In February we saw the river break its banks in a number of locations. Flooding devastates lives and is a public health emergency. People can lose lives and lose everything they have ever worked for. We all saw, in February this year, the devastation to people’s homes and livelihoods and the big clean-up operations of communal, community spaces, such as Hailey Park, Bute Park, Treforest and Nantgarw, to just use some examples. The meadows and trees do a job in absorbing and diverting water. When we continue to concrete over our green spaces, we are increasing our flood risk significantly. We cannot simply sit back and allow a development to go ahead on this site when it will increase the flood risk to us all.
We are living in a climate emergency.
This was declared by both Cardiff Council and the Welsh Government in 2019. As the original planning is so old it is not being scrutinised based on our current legislation and policy. It ignores, breaches and disregards the following:
- Wellbeing of Future Generations Act 2015
- The Environment (Wales) Act 2016
- The Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2016
- The Convention on Biological Diversity (1992)
- United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1991; enshrined in Welsh Law 2011)
- Planning Policy Wales 10 (2018) and Building Better Places (2020)
- The plans do not appear within Cardiff’s Local Development Plan (2006-2026)
- Our Strategic Plan 2019-2022 Public Health Wales
Millions are spent each year by Cardiff Council and the Welsh Government in creating these policies and pieces of legislation. If they are then ignored, what is the point in them in the first place?
We mention here the accusation made against us, that we are only now questioning the medical model because we want to save the meadow. It has also been insinuated that letter received by Welsh Government and the BBC was sent by the campaign, and questions have been asked about the “so called experts.”
We would like to set the record straight. The STNM campaign is largely made up of Cardiff residents and others further afield who know the meadows well. No, we are not run by Extinction Rebellion as has been suggested.
Aside from the two doctors (who are also local residents) who have been brave enough to step forward and speak out and frankly have been subject to disgraceful responses for doing so; the campaign has had no other contact with the medical professionals involved in the letters sent. We understand that 57 medical professionals have written to the Welsh Government and 34 staff members at Velindre have written to the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board (CAVUHB) Chief Executive, to raise concern over the proposed model and plans. We heard the Radio Wales interview with a third, senior doctor but we have never spoken with that clinician.
Critics are asked to take a minute to consider whether these medical professionals would put their reputations and careers on the line by speaking out, simply because the STNM campaign had influenced them to do so? The campaign does not know who these people are and we have not seen the letters sent. Nor do we expect or need to. But we are hugely grateful for each and every one of them who has taken the brave step in raising their concerns with decision makers.
The quest by some, to discover their names, is wholly inappropriate. There are laws in place to protect people who speak out and this should be respected. The Welsh Government and CAVUHB Chief Executive have the names and will be aware of their roles and qualifications. That is what is important here.
The Bigger Picture
Additionally, many people are only aware of part of the picture. This whole matter is part of a wider master plan – with the meadows used for the cancer centre, Whitchurch and Velindre are prime sites for lucrative, executive housing and other uses. Cardiff and Vale Health Board have been renewing the planning consent on the Whitchurch Hospital site for over 20 years, all the while never bringing any of these plans to fruition and allowing a listed building to rot. Affordable housing within these plans has decreased as the years have passed. Their renewal in 2016 stated up to 40% affordable housing and by 2020’s renewal this has decreased to a maximum of 20%.
They propose hundreds of apartments and houses, thousands of square metres of office space and retails units. Given our “new-normal” will these offices be utilised? New retail and hospitality outlets here would put immense pressure on many of the small, independent businesses in Whitchurch Village and likely result in closures. Many of these businesses are just keeping their heads above water post-covid. There are no plans for additional GP services or school places.
Some members of a group opposing us say we are heartless, selfish and lack compassion but this simply is not true. As well as cancer, people face other challenges daily, other serious health issues, other life-limiting illnesses and other life-changing events. We all have a right to a quality of life. Critics should not disregard or forget about them. Cancer is devastating, all-consuming and overwhelming and so are other difficulties experienced by people.
As the campaign grew, we learned more from medical professionals who contacted us. This is why our narrative has moved away from siting the new centre on the Whitchurch Hospital site. It is not because we are “hypocrites” “can’t make up our minds” or are “grasping at straws”.
Clinicians and medical experts from all over the country have come forward to tell us the model proposed by Transforming Cancer Services on the meadow is clinically unsafe. The model proposed is an ‘archaic’ form of care. That is not to say that what Velindre has been doing for decades has been wrong. It is saying that as cancer care evolves the services and models of care need to as well. And although yes, it is desirable to have a new cancer centre as soon as possible, it is completely undesirable and unacceptable to have a large expensive cancer centre placed on a greenfield site, when it may not be able to offer the best, most up to date care available.
In fact, this model is out of date before it is built.
Although we understand the fears of being treated in a larger hospital, having the new Velindre placed on site would not mean patients would have to mix with others throughout the hospital, and could remain in a self-contained space purely for Velindre. In case of emergencies, this unit would then be in the right place to quickly assess, treat and possibly transfer patients with complications, which are common during the treatment of cancer. As UHW shall undergo a large renovation starting in 2023 the assertion our campaign shall add 10 – 15 years to the start date is false. Indeed, the Transforming Cancer Services own website states it shall add 2 years only to the development. Although frustrating, this would ensure we have 60 + years of the best care, rather than 60+ years of old fashioned care.
Surely patients and families want the best care possible for everyone. It is in this spirit that we demand an External Independent Clinical Enquiry into the choice of siteand medical model. If the model is inappropriate and outdated, then the care provided to patients will be also. That is unacceptable for all of us.
And just to reiterate and make clear our position on the Whitchurch Hospital issue:
IF, following an independent review it is deemed that a stand-alone centre is in fact the best option, then we would continue to campaign that the Whitchurch Hospital and existing Velindre Hospital sites are used. Not the meadows.
Accessible pathways can easily run from the old hospital sites up to the meadows. The same healing and tranquil benefits will be available to all – patients, families,staff and the wider community; without the massive cost to taxpayers for the construction of bridges and the devastating destruction of the meadows and by proximity, significant damage to the biodiversity of the nature reserve below.
When first built, Whitchurch Hospital had beautiful grounds and gardens which were considered forward-thinking at the time, as the hospital was designed to aid the healing of patients through having access to green space. The meadows were also used to grow produce for the hospital kitchen and as rehabilitation for patients, and so there is precedent set – patients have accessed the meadow space from the existing Whitchurch Hospital site in the past. There is no reason why this cannot be done again.
Those in opposition to saving the meadows talk of Whitchurch Hospital being a listedbuilding (and wrongly say it cannot be touched because of this) and it is too small. The site is actually bigger than the meadows, especially if you incorporate the existing Velindre site too. Yes, it is listed, yet is being left to rot and be to vandalised. Last year alone the health board spent over £412,000 on security fencing, lighting and cameras for this abandoned site. That is heading towards half a million pounds which could be used elsewhere. It is criminal that this site has been left in this condition for so many years.
Furthermore, architects regularly do incredible things in merging new with old buildings – in honouring the past whilst achieving what is needed for the future. Little consideration and research has been done on this. There is a grand theatre in Whitchurch Hospital which, if modernised, could lend itself to a conference centre as is included in the proposed plans for the new cancer centre. Cadw has not been involved in discussion about the possibilities and potential for restoration and adaption. The report released on the suitability of the Whitchurch Hospital site was actually completed in June of this year, following pressure from our campaign. It was never, ever given real, in-depth consideration. This is because it comes down to profit and lucrative housing.
Nobody is trying to deny cancer patients a meadow and beautiful surroundings, if the current model of care was given the ahead. This has been our message all along:
WE CAN HAVE BOTH.
The use of Mutual Investment Model (MIM) to fund it, the impact on the community and the environment, and the lack of transparency in decision making all leads us to ask questions. We believe the model proposed is not fit for purpose, and will actually harm present and future generations. So we are asking that the location and many other aspects of the model are re-examined.
We want the best care for us and for future generations, and if there is any question the new site cannot provide this, then it is our duty as a community to question it. We should not accept something so wildly expensive and important if there is any doubt about the quality of care it could provide.
We demand an External Independent Clinical Enquiry into the site and medical model to ensure the best for us all.
We ask critics to consider we have also had family, friends, colleagues, and children treated by Velindre. Some of our members have also been treated there. Our page is open and transparent. People are welcome to speak with us and we had hoped supporters and those in opposition alike could discuss together, respectfully.
We have seen many comments online stating, “Lives over leaves” and “Lives over lawns.” Our health – mentally and physically – is directly connected to nature and to the environment. We cannot separate them and choose one over the other. We are one and the same. We need to respect and nurture our environment better. That is a fact.
Some are quick to raise awareness of fires burning the Amazon, in California, in Australia. But when it comes to at home conservation we are called crazy hippies who need to get over it.
Unfortunately, the global climate is interconnected and what happens to wildlife and natural spaces in your local area has implications worldwide. That is the nature of the climate emergency. And that is why we have to act locally, as well as working with other communities to influence how our state acts globally.
We have to all accept responsibility in playing our part to preserve the planet, protect one another and help ensure the future health and wellbeing of generations to come.
Social media comments have tried to devalue and weaken our connection to the meadows by saying that we named it the Northern Meadows at the start of lockdown and most people didn’t know it was there before. It is correct that many more people discovered this area during the lockdown and that is fantastic. It provided a good space, with social distancing and supported the mental and physical health of thousands throughout the period when we could only go out once a day and had to stay local. Why should that be mocked or criticised?
It is also true that not all of us called it the Northern Meadows. Some did and others called it “top fields”, “fields above the canal” and we are sure a number of other names too. The name makes no difference to the experience.
For many of us, we and our families have used this space for decades.
We have taken our children, walked our dogs, had our first encounters with nature there. We have sledged in the snow, we have had picnics, we have explored as children, our teachers have sent us here as part of the cross-country route during PE. We have headed there for fitness, for fresh air and for tranquillity. We have had happy times with family and friends there and we have sought this space in the most difficult of times when we needed solace and a space for contemplation. Nature is powerful and healing.
Most significantly in this situation we do not need to choose one over the other.
WE CAN HAVE BOTH.
YES to Velindre. No to meadows’ destruction.
Our health. Our future.
This is an overview of what we stand for. Please look at our Facebook page and website, or join our Facebook group if you would like to know more.
We all agree Velindre Cancer Centre and their staff do fantastic work. However, it is limited in patient safety by the stand alone centre model. We have heard from people who have been treated for cancer, as well as those who have cared for family and friends with the disease, about how frustrating, stressful, and traumatising the need to wait for a transfer to an appropriate facility can be. And we have heard of the devastating impact a wait for transfer can have on patients. Some have lost their lives waiting for transfers.
So, we ask why is this model of care being pursued if it causes distress and harm to patients? Many have told us it is the staff, and not the site which provides them with the healing experience. So why is this model being pursued, against all medical evidence and reports available from as recently as 2019?
Below are the facts of the matter, taken from the Enquiry Visit to Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre (2015), and the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre Strategic Reviews (2019). ✅
Recent independent reviews of cancer centres elsewhere in the UK have not supported the stand alone isolated units, but instead recommend co-location of the cancer centre on an acute hospital site. The clinical experience of cancer centres such as Mount Vernon, Clatterbridge and Beatson units, tells us that a stand alone, isolated unit is outdated and clinically unsafe. Patients with cancer are already sick, and many of the modern chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatments can make them a lot sicker very quickly.
Chemotherapy and immunotherapy are not without side effects and risk. When this happens the patients need immediate treatment and support. In the new modern integrated units this care is onsite, and immediately available as delays can adversely effect the final outcome.
Ambulance transfers are not themselves without risk, and whilst the EMRTS flying doctors can assist, their availability is not guaranteed, and travelling from their base near Llanelli adds a considerable delay.
Added to this is the significant number of patients that need to be transferred for urgent treatment that is not an immediate life threatening emergency. These patients may need surgery, interventional radiology, like stenting procedures, or medical input. These transfers are unpleasant for the patient and disrupt their cancer care.
All the evidence available supports integrated care, and refutes the stand alone model. ✅
The new Velindre Cancer Centre needs a robust up to date independent clinical review if it wishes to proceed as a model refuting all evidence. Yet Transforming Cancer Services and Velindre Trust have failed to produce a report vindicating the model, meaning there is no evidence this model will provide the best care for cancer patients in South Wales.
Despite this being a commitment of over £200 million, to date no truly independent clinical review has been undertaken to see whether the proposed stand alone model is safe or appropriate for the needs of patients and staff alike.
⚠️ Therefore, it is a matter of urgency this review must be conducted before building starts ⚠️
Surely we all want what’s best for patients – and patients shouldn’t have to accept an archaic and outdated model of care because decision makers are afraid to change their minds when dissenting evidence comes to light. ✅
There are plans for the redevelopment of Heath Hospital in the works right now. Velindre must accept this is an out of date model of care. The community will never accept the hospital on the meadow because of the negative, long term impact on the care of present and future generations, as well as the destruction it will bring to local ecosystems and community health via air pollution, destruction of our green space, and the potential for the site to increase flooding in the local area. The sooner care is integrated to the new Heath proposal, the sooner cancer patients in Wales get the excellent level of care they deserve.
Velindre and TCS have said this would add 10-15 years to the development. This is categorically untrue. Their own website states it would add 2 years to building time. You can find that information on Velindre’s own website here http://www.transformingcancerservices.wales/your-questions/
Finally, the Beatson model of care was viewed to put patients ‘at risk’. We want to ensure patients face the least risk possible when accessing their care. If this model does not provide the safest form of care for patients, and it won’t take over a decade to change the plans, why is it still being pursued? ❓❓
Mount Vernon Cancer Centre Strategic Review (2019)
Enquiry Visit to Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre (2015)
Transforming Cancer Services http://www.transformingcancerservices.wales/your-questions/
A huge thank you to Lee from Child Friendly Cardiff who came to speak to the children on the meadow today.
They all spoke so well about their views on how they can be consulted and their views considered.
Thank you to everyone who was able to join with Emily this afternoon – you were wonderful.
Going forward – Lee Will now seek ways the Health board and Education can provide appropriate channels for them and others in the local area to be informed of the developments and to collate their views.
By Bethan Davies