Fresh fears for vascular services delivered at QA

THREAT Specialist surgery faces an uncertain future at QA
THREAT Specialist surgery faces an uncertain future at QA

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THE future of specialist vein surgery at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth is once again under threat.

Newly-formed commissioning body the Wessex Area Team believes Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs QA, does not meet the requirements, which say services must not be split over two sites.

At the moment, both Southampton and Portsmouth, carry out vascular surgery.

A letter by area director Debbie Fleming said: ‘Under the specification, vascular medical teams should consist of a minimum of six vascular surgeons, and in an emergency, patients should have immediate access to a full vascular team.

‘In order to ensure surgeons keep their experience levels up, at least 60 abdominal aortic aneurysm repairs should be carried out at the hospital per year, and at least 50 operations to clear the carotid artery, should be carried out at each hospital per year.

‘PHT has only five surgeons taking part in the vascular rota, and the majority are not undertaking sufficient aneurysm surgery to meet the national standards.’

But the hospital trust said it does meet the criteria, and that patient safety is its primary concern.

Peter Mellor, director of corporate affairs and business development at PHT, said: ‘We are absolutely focused on, and determined to provide, the best vascular care for people.

‘And we sincerely believe the vascular service, in its entirety, should be retained at QA.

‘PHT believes it does satisfy and meet the needs of the national requirements.

‘We are looking to be treated evenhandedly, and want to resolve this issue without alarming the population we are serving well.’

As previously reported, the Vascular Society of Great Britain and Ireland found the country has a higher death rate due to vascular-related diseases than Europe. It also found bigger centres would do better at serving health needs instead of smaller ones.

According to the guidelines, the centres need to be in place by October.

PATIENT CARE MUST BE AT THE CENTRE OF THE DECISION

AN MP says he is ‘appalled’ vascular services are being called into question again.

Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, said: ‘I’m appalled by this. There’s something seriously wrong in the thinking.

‘The letter says nothing to justify why services should go from Portsmouth to Southampton.

‘I don’t think they (Wessex) have made their case to have the facility elsewhere.’

And the chairman of QA’s board of governors also agrees patient care must be at the heart of any decision.

Syd Rapson said: ‘We do not intend to give up our vascular position, and at the moment, as governors, we have taken a step back to let the two trusts work it out.

‘We believe we are doing a very good job. We are not anti-Southampton, we want what’s best for patients with clinical outcomes.’

These thoughts have been echoed by he newly-formed patient support group Healthwatch.

Manager Steven Taylor said: ‘This is an area that in the past has been lacking in meaningful consultation – we hope it will now change and we cannot see a more important issue to make sure that good local engagement and consultation is carried out.’

TIMELINE

THE drive to change vascular services stems from a national report in 2010.

The Vascular Society of Great Britain and Ireland found the country has a higher death rate due to vascular-related diseases than Europe.

It also found bigger centres would do better at serving health needs instead of smaller ones.

In August 2011, the now-defunct primary care trust cluster Ship, which covered Southampton, Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Portsmouth, drew up three options, to implement this guideline on the south coast.

One was to move surgery from Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, to Southampton.

The second was to split services between the two cities, and a third looked at Portsmouth and Chichester hospitals sharing.

It prompted The News to launch one of its biggest health campaigns urging readers to ask for a full three-month consultation.

In the autumn more than 6,000 people signed our Keep It At QA letter and forced Ship to reconsider its plans.

QA then put together plans to create a ‘vascular centre’ in Portsmouth.

This option would have formed one of two that was due to go out to public consultation in January 2012.

But in a U-turn, Ship scrapped plans to make any changes and said services will remain as they are.

Portsmouth and Southampton began talks on how to set up a surgeon rota system, so both hospitals would have the service.

In April this year, it was all change for the NHS.

Health services are now paid for by Clinical Commissioning Groups.

For a service as important as vascular, the money comes from commissioner NHS England, which has seven local bodies.

Portsmouth and Southampton come under the Wessex Area Team.

It believes Portsmouth does not meet the national specifications needed to keep performing vascular services.

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Cosham, said it does, and has sent in a self-assessment, which Wessex is looking into.