THE much-criticised handover of musculoskeletal (MSK) services from the public to the private sector has been delayed until March 31 next year.
Bupa CSH Ltd were due to take control of all elective NHS orthopaedic services across West Sussex from January 1, 2015, but that has been pushed back three months while an independent impact assessment is carried out.
NHS Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has promised that the £235 contract it handed out to Bupa will not be signed until the report is published.
It follows much-publicised concern from Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who were joint losers of the bid, over how it will affect accident & emergency services at St Richard’s and Worthing Hospitals, as well as other health services.
A statement from the CCG announced the independent impact assessment and said it and Western ‘are committed to work together and will accept the outcome of the report’.
“The CCG has been clear that a contract will not be signed until there is certainty around where hospital services will be delivered as part of this new service, and that local health services will not be destabilised.
Dr Katie Armstrong, clinical chief officer at the CCG, said: “The CCG wants to improve services for patients, we take the concerns raised by the hospital trust very seriously; we have no intention to close A&E departments or to affect the ability of the local hospital to provide safe and sustainable services.
“This agreement is a positive step forward so we can work alongside the hospital trust and develop a joint understanding of the impact of the new service and ensure local services stay safe. The CCG and hospital agree that current services for MSK patients need to be better integrated.”
Marianne Griffiths, chief executive at Western, added: “This joint impact assessment should provide the clearer picture we need of how hospital services will be affected by any new arrangements, and I am pleased our concerns have been recognised and will now be explored in full, in partnership.
“The staff who run our current MSK service, of which I am personally very proud, also make a hugely important contribution to a wide range of other specialities across our hospitals. If we want to put patients first, it is vital that they are able to continue to do so.”
A number of campaigners, local residents and hospital workers have criticised the contract and two protests are set to be held at two forthcoming meetings.
Margaret Guest, chairman of Don’t Cut Us Out, last week said: “This contract could lose life-saving A&E cover at both St Richard’s and Worthing hospitals, because the doctors contracted by Bupa CSH will have no obligation to work in A&E.”
See all the latest on our A&E SOS campaign in Thursday’s paper.