Outraged campaigners have said it was a ‘disgrace’ health chiefs have delayed a public update on a controversial hospital contract without providing a new deadline.
As previously reported, an impact assessment report found the decision by NHS Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to hand an NHS musculo-skeletal (MSK) contract to Bupa CSH could affect accident and emergency services at St Richard‘s Hospital, Chichester and Worthing Hospital.
The public expected to hear a report on mitigating actions needed to address these risks at the West Sussex County Council Health and Adult Social Care Select Committee (HASC) meeting next Wednesday January 21.
But last week it was revealed health chiefs were still deliberating.
The CCG’s clinical chief officer has said they are focusing on reaching ‘the right solution, not a rushed solution’.
Margaret Guest, chair of campaign group Don’t Cut Us Out, said: “This is a disgrace and affront to local democracy and public accountability.
“HASC provides the only means of formal local public scrutiny for plans and significant changes in public health and social care services.
“It has responsibility to ensure that any changes do not adversely affect the overall quality of care for West Sussex residents.
“It does not meet again until March 12. By then it is likely to be too late to challenge deals done behind closed doors by health chiefs anxious to meet the deadline to implement the contract with Bupa/CSH for the April 1.”
She added: “This is yet further evidence of the CCG’s leadership failures.
“They embarked on a costly procurement process - which many still consider was unnecessary without first completing the customary assessment as to the likely risks posed by any procurement.
“In spite of all the concerns expressed, in spite of the public outrage, the petitions and protests, the financial and clinical risks exposed by the PWC assessment, and the probing by HASC, it seems to be ‘business as usual’ at the CCG.
“One is bound to ask are these cynical manoeuvrings or simply a sign of lack of competency on the part of the CCG leadership.”
Dr Katie Armstrong, clinical chief officer at the CCG, said: “We have always been committed to keeping the hospital trust sustainable and making sure that both A&Es at Worthing and St Richard’s Hospital remain open.
“Everybody wants to see a conclusion as soon as possible but we need to allow time for the negotiations between Western Sussex Hospitals and Bupa CSH to reach the right solution, not a rushed solution.
“We remain committed to delivering improvements to MSK services for patients, and have always said that a contract will not be signed if local health services will be destabilised as a result of the new service.
“At a time of extraordinary pressure for our emergency services, this work remains a priority, whilst we work together as a system to meet demand and keep patients safe.”
Margaret Evans, chairman of HASC, said although the committee was keen to see a conclusion to negotiations as soon as possible, it understood that it was important to get it right.
Next Wednesday’s HASC meeting will take place at 10.30am at County Hall, Chichester.