‘Deeply concerned’ by lack of NHS information

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More financial information about a major redesign of health services in part of West Sussex was demanded by health watchdogs.

Some county councillors told the health and adult social care select committee they did not feel able to examine the impact of the changes being implemented by the Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust without details of the cash implications.

The select committee heard there had been ‘significant progress’ in the implementation of the ‘service redesign for quality’ programme - in particular, the opening of a new 38-bed unit at Worthing Hospital, a new opthalmology department at St Richard’s, Chichester, and a range of initiatives aimed at ensuring more people were treated in the community.

Mark Dunn (Con, Bourne) said he thought this was about financial stringency, and he would like an overview of the predicted budget.

“As a county councillor, I am deeply concerned about the interface between the health service and the county council,” he added.

He could not agree to recommendations without further financial information. And Robert Dunn (Con, Saltings) said members could not scrutinise what was happening if they did not have this information. Pete Bradbury (Con, Cuckfield) also said he strongly supported Mark Dunn’s view.

“I notice the difference between the paper before us, produced by the NHS, and county council papers, where there is always a section called ‘resource implications and value for money,’” he added.

Part of the select committee’s work would be to scrutinise these choices and see whether it agreed the right choices had been made.

“I can’t see how this committee can make this kind of scrutiny work realistic if we don’t have access to financial information,” said Mr Bradbury. “Perhaps that would indicate how a number of different things are progressing and working.”

It was up to committee members to decide what kind of information they wanted. The joint commissioning board was committing some very serious amounts of money, and the committee would have to scrutinise what was happening with this.

The select committee meeting was told the service changes were being driven on the basis of quality and patient safety. However, they would also bring efficiencies.