The health group responsible for running a network of cancer and diagnostics centres across the UK has this week announced that an application is to be made to place the company into liquidation.
Since 2015, Rutherford Health has built a network of oncology centres known as the Rutherford Cancer Centres which are located in South Wales, Northumberland, Liverpool, and Thames Valley.
More recently, the group opened the first community diagnostics centre of its kind in England, located in Somerset.
The group comprises a number of subsidiary companies including Rutherford Cancer Centres, Rutherford Diagnostics, Rutherford Innovations, and Rutherford Estates.
Rutherford Health has offered an extensive range of advanced cancer treatments at its centres including high-energy proton beam therapy (PBT), radiotherapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, diagnostic imaging, and supportive care services.
But it announced that an application will be made later this week to appoint the Official Receiver as liquidator.
Staff at the centres were informed of the move yesterday and arrangements are being made to transfer patients to alternative facilities.
A lack of patient volume
A number of factors have contributed to the decision to place the group into liquidation.
Firstly, the number of patients presenting to the cancer centres during the COVID-19 pandemic was severely impacted, resulting in a critical lack of patient volume.
The group had also invested heavily in building its cancer centre network, one of the most advanced in Europe, and the cost of infrastructure, combined with impacted patient flow, presented extremely-challenging trading conditions.
The group made efforts to increase patient flow by offering the NHS a not-for-profit national contract in addition to existing local contracts, but this was not taken up.
A process of informing patients is underway and the small number of locally-commissioned NHS patients are being returned to their local NHS trust to finish their treatment.
Sean Sullivan, chief restructuring officer and interim chief executive, said: “Rutherford Health has been committed to providing high-quality care, and the past couple of years has proven to be an extremely-challenging time for the business.
“COVID has been particularly damaging for us as fewer patients were presenting with side effects during the lockdowns, and as a result cancer diagnosis has been delayed and sadly, in many cases, missed.
“This has meant fewer cancer patients have been presenting to our centres.
“Added to that, the business had grown rapidly over recent years. It was a very-expensive business to set up, with over £240m of capital expenditure to build and develop the cancer centres across the country. However, unfortunately patient numbers have not matched that.
“We made several offers to the NHS, and while we secured some contracts, they were insufficient and we have not been able to secure mechanisms to expedite process.
“This added to severe financial pressures on the business and we had no option other than to place the group into liquidation.
“We are very proud to have been able to serve the community and cancer patients across the country.”
The NHS commented on the announcement, stating that Rutherford health had not been in a position to provide surgical services, which is its priority currently to address the waiting list backlog.
And Minesh Patel, head of policy at charity, Macmillan Cancer Support, said it was vital that patients ‘receive the support and care they urgently need and deserve by getting swiftly referred elsewhere to start or continue their treatment as soon as possible’.
NHS England data shows only 67.4% of cancer patients had their first treatment within two months of an urgent referral from their GP in March.
The NHS target is that 85% of patients should be treated within this timeframe.