Specialist vein surgery must remain in Portsmouth

COMMENT: All agencies must to held to account for Anne Savidge’s tragic death

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We had thought this was a battle won. But evidently that is not the case.

A threat to the continued provision of specialist vein surgery at Portsmouth’s Queen Alexandra Hospital prompted one of our biggest health campaigns as we urged readers to ask for a full consultation.

In the autumn of 2011 more than 6,000 people signed our Keep It At QA letter and forced Ship, the primary care trust cluster covering Southampton, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth, to reconsider its plans.

We were told that, as a result, services would remain the way they were.

It was a triumph of people power and showed just how strongly the public felt about vascular surgery possibly moving to Southampton.

But in the complex world of the NHS, a structural change now means a new risk of the city losing its vascular surgeons.

As of April, health services are now paid for by Clinical Commissioning Groups, not the now-defunct Ship.

Money for vascular surgery comes from commissioner NHS England, which has seven local bodies including the Wessex Area Team that covers our patch.

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

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the QA, argues that it does meet the criteria on surgeon numbers and number of operations.

We back the trust to make its case strongly and agree with Syd Rapson, chairman of the QA’s board of governors, when he maintains that patient care must be at the heart of any decision.

We say to the leaders of the Wessex Area Team that this isn’t about number-crunching bald statistics.

It’s about doing what’s in the best interests of the people of Portsmouth who need and use the vascular service.

The only outcome that will satisfy them and us is for the surgeons providing that service to remain working in this city.