A LONG campaign which was backed by thousands of people in Portsmouth to keep emergency vascular surgery in the city has finally been defeated.
NHS managers have confirmed that they will create a ‘Wessex Vascular Network’ – with emergency, major and more complex surgery taking place at University Hospital Southampton and related services and outpatient appointments at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, in Winchester, or on the Isle of Wight.
The original campaign was launched by The News in August 2011, the first time that health bosses raised the spectre of moving the vein experts out of QA.
Within weeks 6,000 people had signed a petition for the ‘Keep It At QA’ campaign – with many worried that the extra time it could take emergency cases to reach Southampton instead of Portsmouth could potentially prove fatal to some patients.
Then, in a 2012 U-turn, plans for changes were scrapped. But they resurfaced in 2014 and now, after two years, a plan has been made.
The vein surgery helps repair blood vessels following a stroke as well as treating aneurysms, where blood vessels become enlarged and burst.
And surgeons are often called upon to intervene if routine surgery goes wrong and their expertise is needed.
Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said she would be seeking extra information on some points, such as the out-of-hours service.
She said: ‘This review has taken a huge amount of time and I would be interested in hearing the views of the clinical teams at the QA now a final position has been reached.
‘These are difficult decisions and I am pleased it appears that vascular surgeons will still be on hand at the QA to review patients and provide this vital foundation expertise.
‘However I will be seeking further clarification about out-of-hours access especially for unplanned cases which might require such input, and how and when the new arrangements will be reviewed.’
She added: ‘I would also like to thank all those people, working in and using healthcare locally, who have contributed to this review over the years. It has been vitally important.’
Over recent months the NHS held meetings across southern Hampshire to hear people’s views on how to improve vascular services.
Graham White, 77, from Havant, went to a meeting in Portsmouth.
The former music teacher suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm in 2008 and nearly died.
Now recovered thanks to vascular surgery, he said: ‘I can understand why they are doing it, as we have a shortage of doctors and vascular surgeons.
‘What concerns me is that the further you have to go then the more likely it is you will die. I was lucky.’
He said he was realistic that there needs to be a supply to meet demand. He said he would have liked to have seen a split service between Portsmouth and Southampton, although he was relieved some services would be retained at Portsmouth in the face of government cuts.
Mr White added: ‘I respect the NHS staff and think that there are big problems across the country.’
NHS England – South (Wessex) medical director Dr Liz Mearns said the network would be an improvement and that a vascular specific patient reference group was being set up to monitor patient feedback.
She said: ‘We are delighted to be implementing this improved service, which will deliver a better and more sustainable world-class service for patients requiring vascular surgery services.’