Vital step in QA campaign

SUPPORT Letters have flooded in to The News backing our fight to keep vascular surgery at QA
SUPPORT Letters have flooded in to The News backing our fight to keep vascular surgery at QA

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HEALTH officials have bowed to pressure by announcing they will hold a full public consultation on the future of vein experts in Portsmouth.

The announcement comes after hundreds of readers backed our Keep It QA campaign which is aimed at stopping vascular surgeons being moved away from Queen Alexandra Hospital.

The news has been welcomed by people around the city.

Jock McLees, chairman of Portsmouth Link, which represents patients, said: ‘We wrote to the strategic health authority back when this news broke, expressing our concern about the removal of vascular surgeons from QA.

‘The people in the area of Portsmouth deserve appropriate treatment and should get consulted on the matter.’

Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock said: ‘I hope the overwhelming opinion of people and professionals will be heard and that comments will be heeded.’

Penny Mordaunt, MP for Portsmouth North, said: ‘I thought it was crazy they weren’t going to have a consultation in the off. The more information and dialogue in the public domain is better. Now everybody needs to respond and say why we must retain the surgery at QA.’

In the new consultation, people will be asked for their views on three proposals which have been put forward by a cluster of Primary Care Trusts known as Ship.

The trusts represent Southampton, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth.

The trusts previously announced a six-week ‘engagement process’ over the proposals, which included an option to move vascular surgeons from QA to Southampton.

The News has been calling for a full three-month consultation to be held during which each option would be fully explained and people would be actively asked for their views.

Now, 18 days before the engagement process deadline, Ship has promised to do just that.

It means a document containing the options will be sent to MPs, councillors, voluntary groups and be made available to the public.

Plans will also be put in place for Ship to receive feedback via email, letters and public roadshows.

Debbie Fleming, chief executive of Ship, said: ‘I want to assure people no changes will be introduced without full public consultation and to provide some reassurance about how the NHS will be working up proposals and involving people in this.

‘The current six week discussion period aims to give an indication of how and why the proposals for the three services have been developed.

‘We are keen to hear the views of people – whether they are patients, clinicians or members of the public – and use these to help develop proposals which will form part of a formal consultation process. The PCT cluster buys health services, and we must make sure the services provide the best care and the best possible chance of a full recovery. There are new national guidelines about the way vascular services are delivered and we must ensure services meet these standards.’

As well as the proposal to move surgeons from QA, where our front page picture was taken, there are also two other options on the table. One is that QA shares vascular surgeons with Southampton. The other is for Portsmouth to treat Chichester patients. Dozens more supporters of our campaign signed our letter, left, in Cosham yesterday. See The News tomorrow for a full report.