VOLUNTEERS providing massages and relaxation therapy to cancer patients are fuming after hospital bosses said their service were being discarded.
The complementary therapy team at Wigan Infirmary’s oncology unit were stunned to receive a letter from Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS foundation Trust informing them the entire service was being disbanded last week.
Basically the letter says dear all, you’re sacked. It’s the final insult because the hospital didn’t send individual letters to us and it wasn’t even signedGeorge Bate - lead therapist
The volunteers were suspended in March while the future of the service was considered but say the latest bombshell came without warning. Complementary therapies will now be provided by a full-time member of staff in a position paid for by The Christie as part of WWL developing closer links with the Manchester specialist cancer hospital.
The 14-strong team had been providing services including Reiki and head and foot massages at Wigan Infirmary for around two years and lead therapist George Bate, who has been volunteering for WWL for more than a decade, says the manner of the dismissal is deeply hurtful.
Mr Bate, from Poolstock, said: “Basically the letter says dear all, you’re sacked. It’s the final insult because the hospital didn’t send individual letters to us and it wasn’t even signed.
“It has just stunned everybody, we’re numb. We feel as though we have been ignored and pushed out of the work we’ve done for years.
“We are all volunteers, that has been the signature of the service, that everything we do is voluntary. We’ve done thousands of treatments working on the mental and emotional state of patients and providing the relaxation people battling cancer need.” The sudden decision to wind up the service is all the more surprising as it has been extremely successful, winning national awards and being recently hailed in the hospital’s in-house magazine as an example of excellence.
Mr Bate also queried whether the new arrangements with The Christie would be better either for cash-strapped hospitals and criticised the way trust bosses had handled the situation since the therapy service was suspended. He said: “If the Trust had patients’ best interests at heart we could still have been working helping people while the negotiations were going on. We don’t know when the new deal is going to start and we’ve got patients who want treatments and therapists who want to give them which costs the hospital nothing. It seems to me they have used underhand tactics to get us out.
Something is going on behind the scenes and we just feel we are being treated terribly.”
WWL apologised for the nature of the mass letter which was sent to the volunteers and said the suspension was due to increased clinical demand for the rooms where the complementary therapists were working.
The Trust also defended its decision to switch from volunteers to a full-time complementary therapist, saying it would improve the range of services on offer to patients.
Deputy director of nursing Pauline Law said: “Two previous communications were issued to complementary Reiki volunteers awaiting the outcome of a business case for further investment in an extended service that would offer a wider range of complimentary therapies.
“A further letter was issued last week which should have been individually addressed to each volunteer.
“I understand these letters were not individually addressed as was intended.
“This was an administrative error for which the Trust apologises.
“These letters informed the volunteers that a business case had been approved for the funding of a full-time complementary therapist who would provide an extended service to our patients that meant that room capacity to continue with volunteer therapies was no longer available.
“This was due to the combination of additional clinical sessions and the extended service that will be provided by the funded complementary therapist.
“The letter sent to the volunteers also thanked them for the time and service given to patients and wished them every success for the future.”