CHIEF executive of the Sussex Community Trust (SCT) Paula Head has this week made a robust defence of its plans to replace Midhurst doctors with new medical cover at the Midhurst Community Hospital.
Launching a campaign against the moves, the seven Riverbank Medical Centre doctors currently providing the hospital cover said the plans were dropped on them without warning and would mean a less-experienced doctor visiting for fewer hours.
They are also concerned that there would be inadequate emergency cover and frail and elderly people would find themselves unnecessarily back in acute hospital beds.
Miss Head said: “It isn’t true we haven’t spoken with our staff about this. It isn’t true we want to use less-experienced doctors for fewer hours. And our GP medical cover won’t be outsourced. In fact, the opposite is true – where we introduce change we’ll bring our GP medical cover in-house, with all the benefits this will offer.”
However, doctors in Midhurst remain sceptical and Dr Dennis Brennan, deputy chairman of the Midhurst Community Hospital league of Friends described the trust’s statement as a ‘predictable endeavour to repair misunderstandings’.
The SCT chief executive told the Observer: “Under our current arrangements a local GP practice provides each of our community hospitals with around three hours of GP medical cover every weekday. It is standard practice to review such arrangements and as part of this we are considering the benefits of employing our own, suitably-qualified and experienced GPs.
She said the trust had tested the new approach and found it could extend the hours of GP medical cover at no extra cost and secure additional benefits as well: “For example scope to develop specialist expertise in the care of the elderly.”
The trust’s executive medical director Dr Richard Quirk was now considering the best way forward.
“Our view is that our thinking is consistent with our resolute commitment to provide the highest standards of safe and effective care to the most vulnerable people in line with our vision of excellent care at the heart of the community,” continued Miss Head.
“If and where we progress, we will ensure a smooth transition through the involvement of all involved including our nursing and therapy teams, the GP practices, our local hospital friends and other partners.
“And perhaps most fundamentally, where we change our approach we are confident our patients will see no significant change in the nature or quality of the care they receive.”
But Dr Brennan said: “A strong and supportive relationship between the community trust and Midhurst is a necessary condition for those health care outcomes we all wish for.
“In some ways the whole problem would have been avoided if ‘item 14 – being open’, the bottom item on the board and executive team page of the SCT website, had been addressed.
“There would appear to have been a process breakdown in the ‘being open’ and transparent remit of the board. Let’s hope more attention is paid to this in future – fewer repairs would be necessary and greater confidence would result in the trust’s good intentions.
“I would suggest that to confirm the ‘repair’ is working over the next three months or so, a four-weekly update is held with the Midhurst doctors.”
See Behind the Headlines Midhurst and Petworth Observer Thursday, June 12