HEALTH bosses have seen the light and agreed to keep specialist vein surgeons at Queen Alexandra Hospital.
After a four-year battle, commissioners have finally agreed with clinicians at QA that the Cosham hospital has enough skilled surgeons and demand for vascular services to stay at the site.
The hospital’s vascular service has been working under the threat of moving to Southampton for the past four years.
But at Portsmouth City Council’s health, overview and scrutiny panel (Hosp) meeting, the trust behind QA announced services will now stay.
Peter Mellor, director of corporate affairs and business development for Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, said: ‘There was a directive that there should be bigger centres of excellence to provide vascular care in line with European standards.
‘We thought smaller centres would count as Winchester or St Richard’s hospitals, and that although Portsmouth and Southampton were close, both were big enough to remain.
‘However, NHS England said services should go to Southampton, which from our perspective was not acceptable for patients.
‘But I’m pleased to say services will remain at QA.
‘For the past four years we have been waiting to hear the evidence of why things should move to Southampton, but I’m glad common sense has prevailed.’
Clinicians from Portsmouth and Southampton have agreed to hold regular conferences to discuss the needs of more complex patients, and conduct joint training and teaching from September.
A three-month consultation that was due to start in May will not go ahead.
Councillor David Horne is chairman of the Hosp.
He said: ‘This network is the best for the region’s health and the city’s health.
‘There will be a lot of benefits from sharing training and teaching.
‘This has been a long-standing issue and I’m glad there’s a good outcome.’
As reported, clinicians at QA raised concerns patients’ health could be at risk by having to travel further for emergency vascular treatment – especially as the hospital currently delivers a high standard of care with good outcomes.
It would also have an impact on visitors from the Portsmouth area having to travel past QA to see family and friends in Southampton.
Simon Haill is the manager of patient support group Portsmouth Healthwatch.
He said: ‘This is a really good result for the people of Portsmouth and demonstrates a clear message that their concerns over this contentious issue have been acknowledged and addressed.’
Syd Rapson, a former senior governor at PHT, is pleased with the decision.
He said: ‘Common sense has prevailed and I’m really pleased.
‘An approach that’s best for clinical outcomes has been reached instead of political.’
A spokesman for NHS England Wessex said: ‘We’re greatly encouraged with how the organisations involved are working together to build a network solution.’
THE Vascular Society of Great Britain and Ireland found the country has a higher death rate due to vascular-related diseases than the rest of Europe.
It found bigger centres would be better at serving health needs.
In August 2011, the now-defunct primary care trust cluster Ship, which covered Southampton and Portsmouth, drew up three options.
One was to move surgery from QA to Southampton, the second was to split services between the two cities, and a third looked at Portsmouth and Chichester hospitals sharing.
The News launched one of its biggest health campaigns urging readers to ask for a full three-month consultation.
In autumn 2011, more than 6,000 people signed our Keep It At QA letter, forcing Ship to reconsider its plans.
QA put together a proposal to create a ‘vascular centre’ in Portsmouth, which would have formed one of two options due to go out to consultation in January 2012. But in a U-turn, Ship scrapped plans to make any changes.
In April 2013, the NHS changed. NHS England, which has seven local bodies – Portsmouth and Southampton come under the Wessex Area Team – became the new commissioner.
Four options were outlined, with Wessex preferring the last one.
This would have involved moving major complex arterial vascular surgical procedures to Southampton by December, followed by all non-emergency patients.
After this a review would have looked to see if stroke and major amputation patients would also move to Southampton.
However, both Portsmouth and Southampton clinicians were given time to talk about how a network model could work between the two sites to make the most expertise at the hospitals, and provide the best outcomes for patients.