St Richard’s Hospital to team up with Portsmouth?

The vascular unit at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester could be saved from the axe by teaming up with Portsmouth, it has been claimed.

That is the view of health leaders in the neighbouring city who are calling for the two hospitals to work closely together to help patients over the proposed surgery shake-up.

Last week the Observer reported the major vascular unit at St Richard’s could be centralised to Brighton as part of changes to specialised health services proposed in an independent review.

But Peter Eddis, chairman of the Portsmouth Health Overview and Scrutiny Panel, said the proposal could put lives at risk.

“If the plans go ahead, at St Richard’s your nearest centres to rush somebody to who has only minutes to live are Brighton and Southampton. If you have QA down the road, your chances are much better,” he said.

“We can’t follow the logic of how it is more convenient to take a patient on an hour’s journey to Brighton instead of 20 minutes to QA. In my opinion Chichester people would probably prefer to come to Portsmouth than go to Brighton.

“Surely the best interests of the patients are served by not making people travel long distances if they can avoid it?”

The review seen by the Observer, which has not yet been made publicly available, was carried out for the NHS by the Vascular Society.

It found each centre should serve a population of roughly 800,000 people – and Mr Eddis said if Portsmouth and Chichester teamed up, it could work perfectly.

“We believe that had there not been the artificial boundary created by the separate health authorities, they would probably have looked at Chichester and Portsmouth working together,” he added.

However Hany Hafez, consultant vascular surgeon at St Richard’s and director of the Sussex Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening Programme, was in favour of the review’s findings.

“Having examined a range of options, we believe the recommendations of the Sussex review are in the best interests of all our patients,” he said.

A new vascular and interventional radiology network – which will include ‘lay members to represent patients and the public’ – is now being formed to look at the recommendations.

John Gooderham, vice-chairman of the West Sussex LINk’s stewardship group which offers residents a voice on local health care, said residents would be unhappy at the plans.

“People will be confused and distressed at the prospect of losing anything from St Richard’s,” he said. “It makes sense as far as I am concerned to have some co-operation between QA in Cosham and St Richard’s in Chichester because it looks like there will be two centres for vascular surgery, one in Southampton and one in Brighton.

“For some of the less-highly-specialised or emergency cases, it would be helpful to have something in between.”