WITH hundreds of signatures coming in, the Observer’s campaign to safeguard Accident and Emergency services is gathering pace.
A&E SOS already has the support of MP Andrew Tyrie, but the Observer is seeking assurance from secretary of state Jeremy Hunt that orthopaedic services at St Richard’s Hospital will be protected.
Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CWS CCG) has awarded a £235m orthopaedic contract to private company Bupa CSH Ltd.
But the decision has raised concerns over the future of A&E services at St Richard’s and Worthing Hospitals, which are run by Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation – which lost the contract.
Clinical chief officer of the CCG, Dr Katie Armstrong, has moved to reassure readers that the hospital services will not be ‘destabilised’.
“We have a cast-iron guarantee that we will continue to commission trauma from the hospital,” she told the Observer.
“Our two A&Es are doing a really good job and the CCG is really proud of that. None of this is a reflection on staff who work in current services.
“We don’t want to do anything that will scare the public. The very thing we are trying to do is reduce bureaucracy. We want to completely simplify the whole process. It is also worth saying that none of our bidders have put in a contract challenge.”
Dr Armstrong said MSK services were not working effectively, with patients in the current system being sent ‘from pillar to post’.
“We agreed that there was a clear case for change. I think this has the opportunity to be an exciting new service.”
Dr Armstrong said the contract was awarded to Bupa CSH over the hospital trust because the successful bidders were ‘consistent’ in their scores and ‘focused on patients’.
She also said it would be ‘irresponsible’ to have awarded the contract to Bupa CSH if the CCG did not ‘trust’ the company’s financial viability.
“We ran a fair competition and our job has to be to pick the right person.”
But Dr Armstrong said the CCG did not take the decision ‘lightly’. and is ‘really concerned about the amount of public concern.”
Last week the CCG accused the hospital trust of ‘causing worry’ through ‘speculative’ comments over the future of A&E services.
On Monday, Dr Amstrong met with Marianne Griffiths, chief executive of the trust, to discuss the hospital’s future.
But Dr George Findlay, medical director, said the trust ‘remained concerned about the wider implications of the proposed changes’.
“Everyone at the trust, and particularly those within our MSK teams, is hugely grateful for all the support we have received from patients and the public.
“MSK services are intrinsically linked to many other services throughout our hospitals, including trauma and emergency surgery, and we remain concerned about the wider implications of the proposed changes.
“There is a need for a robust impact assessment to be carried out by the CCG, in collaboration with us, for all the risks of this decision to be fully understood.
“Our priority is to continue to offer the best possible care to all our patients across every one of our services, and we can only do that by viewing each one in the broader context of the hospital and community care system of which it is an integral part.”
THE decision to award the contract to Bupa CSH has set alarm bells ringing among campaigners – who are warning it will have ‘serious consequences’ for A&E services at St Richard’s and Worthing Hospitals.
“BUPA’s first concern is to provide a profitable health care service, not a local one, and the consequences are likely to have far-reaching effects on the level of service the NHS will be able to provide,” said Dr Diana Brighouse.
Dr Brighouse is campaigning with Coastal West Sussex 38 Degrees whose motto is ‘keep our NHS public’. The group is also working alongside Don’t Cut us Out which campaigns on behalf of vulnerable people in West Sussex.
She said Dr Amstrong’s statement that trauma services are not part of this MSK contract shows she ‘fails to understand how orthopaedic
“She has not anticipated the knock-on effect this contract could have on the wider NHS locally.
“There will be nothing to stop BUPA from moving elective orthopaedic surgery away from St Richard’s and Worthing and centralising these services at a more cost-effective privately-run unit in the future, nor recruiting cheaper surgeons from abroad to replace existing NHS consultants to perform elective orthopaedic surgery, as has happened elsewhere.
“By handing over this huge NHS contract to a private provider, the CCG is setting off a series of events that it has not thought through, and over which it will have no control.
“A worst-case scenario will be the loss of consultants and downgrading of full A&E services at St Richard’s to that of a minor injuries unit. This can only be avoided by offering the contract to the West Sussex Hospitals Foundation Trust (WSHFT) and maintaining the stability of both orthopaedic and trauma services within existing NHS services.”
Health and social care select committee
A HEALTH watchdog for West Sussex County Council has asked the CCG to update the committee on the future of MSK services.
The health and adult social care select committee scrutinises health and adult social care services to make sure they are effective and safe.
In June, the committee considered proposals for the new MSK Services and was reassured that a consistent service would be available to all patients across the county, that
NHS organisations were working together to ensure ‘health and
social care system sustainability’ and that there would be no significant impact on local health services.
Councillor Margaret Evans, chairman of the committee, and vice-chairman Dr James Walsh, have released a statement about the contract: “Recently, some concerns have been raised following the CCGs decision to award the contract for MSK Services to a partnership between Central Surrey Healthcare and BUPA UK.
“We understand that contractual negotiations are still under way, but have asked the CCG to come to the next meeting of the committee (October 2) to provide an update on the process to date and assurances about any impact the plans for the future delivery of MSK Services in the Coastal West Sussex area will have on other key health services.
“If, when these negotiations are completed or at any point before this, it becomes clear that implementation of the MSK Services will have a significant impact on other NHS services, then the CCG will need to consult further with the committee (as well as with the public and other stakeholders).
“We reiterate that the focus for the committee will be to ensure that high-quality, safe and effective services continue to be delivered locally.”
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