Bid to move surgeons from QA sparks fears that lives may be lost

The Queen Alexandra Hospital
The Queen Alexandra Hospital
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LIVES could be put at risk if expert surgeons are moved from Queen Alexandra Hospital to Southampton.

A national review has proposed vascular surgeons at the Cosham hospital should switch to Southampton General Hospital as part of plans to centralise care.

Vascular surgeons repair blood vessels in patients who have had strokes, and also treat aneurysms, where blood vessels become enlarged and burst. They also carry out preventative surgery to stop strokes and ruptured vessels occurring in the first place.

In addition they are on hand during other surgery, during which blood vessels could be damaged – such as cancer operations.

Without vascular surgeons on site, cancer surgeons would have to either call for a surgeon to come from Southampton, try to repair the vessel themselves, or send patients to Southampton for their surgery.

Health representatives and patient groups have reacted angrily to the proposals, while clinicians and GPs say they have grave concerns.

Gosport councillor Peter Edgar, who sits on the council of governors at QA and is on both the Portsmouth and Hampshire health overview and scrutiny committees, said: ‘I have great concerns about this – I’m totally against it. It’s a completely backwards move. It’s absolutely disgusting that it’s even being contemplated.

‘I believe lives could be lost in the ambulances if this happens. This is one of the most frightening things to happen at QA in a long time.

‘The clinicians are worried. We’ve spoken to them, and if the clinicians are worried, then so should we be.’

Jock McLees, chairman of the Portsmouth Local Involvement Network – the city’s patient group – said: ‘It doesn’t sound good for Portsmouth at all.

‘It’s not good news that patients will have to travel miles down the road for vascular surgery and it’s very worrying that other operations such as cancer surgery could be affected. It sounds like it’s a lose-lose situation and it obviously could have an impact on patient safety.’

Regional NHS health officials, who will ultimately make the decision as to whether the proposals will go ahead, plan to consult the public in the future.

GPs in our area, who in the coming years will take over the healthcare budget, say they hope to influence the decision and keep the three full-time vascular surgeons at QA.

Dr Jim Hogan, who leads the Portsmouth GP Commissioning Consortium, said: ‘If there was no vascular surgeon present at QA, this would significantly compromise those patients from Portsmouth who would then have to travel the extra 40 miles to Southampton and back – and increase the element of risk.

‘The worry is that vascular surgeons are not just involved in aneurysms, but they are involved in a lot of the day-to-day work that other surgeons to do. Will Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust still be able to do this work without a vascular surgeon around? It could mean a significant tranche of work moving to Southampton.’

Meanwhile a spokeswoman from Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs QA, said: ‘The ultimate decision about possible movement of vascular surgery will be made by the commissioners. We await the outcome of the engagement process.’

Public consultation will be held on NHS proposals

THE proposal to move surgeons to Southampton comes following a national review carried out by the Vascular Society of Great Britain.

The society believes services should be reconfigured and centralised to create centres of excellence.

Following this review, regional strategic health authorities have been asked to look at how this could be done in their areas.

NHS South Central has carried out the review in this area and has proposed all vascular surgery should move to Southampton.

A consultation about the plans will take place, although a date for when it begins it yet to be announced.

Sarah Eastman, from NHS South Central, said: ‘Commissioners are preparing to listen to the views of local patients and the public – specifically vascular patients, specialist vascular surgeons and voluntary sector organisations with specific interests such as the British Heart Foundation and Vascular Society – with a view to launching a consultation later this year.

‘Options are being developed by local clinicians with input from patients and the public. When finalised they will be clearly presented during the consultation process. No decision has been made at this time.’

VASCULAR SURGERY

Vascular surgeons unclog the blocked arteries leading to the brain in patients who have had strokes. This prevents a further stroke.

They help patients who have a condition where the main artery out of the heart gets bigger and will ultimately burst. A vascular surgeon will try and detect this before it happens and replace it before it bursts and causes an aortic aneurysm.

They replumb vessels which are clogging up and narrowing.

But they also help in other surgery including cancer, transplants, diabetic patients’ surgery, and stroke - when a blood vessel has become damaged.

For example, cancerous growths tend to stick to vessels and sometimes when a surgeon is removing it, they have to cut the vessel. That vessel needs repairing and a vascular surgeon would be called to do this.