Health contract delayed as impact to South Downs A&E gets assessed

Worthing Hospital's A&E department
Worthing Hospital's A&E department

Health chiefs have taken action to protect vital orthopaedic and trauma services at the hospital used by South Downs residents.

Musculoskeletal (MSK) services will now continue to be provided atWorthing Hospital as they are until March 31, 2015.

The delay came about after the Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust agreed to jointly commission an independent impact assessment, following the decision to award a contract for a new integrated MSK service to Bupa Central Surrey Health (CSH) Ltd.

The assessment will evaluate the outcome of the contract negotiations which are currently underway.

Both the CCG and the foundation trust have said they were committed to work together and will accept the outcome of the report.

Contracting out the service raised concern from health chiefs that it could put the futures of both MSK services and the less profitable accident and emergency departments at Chichester and Worthing hospitals at risk.

The CCG has been clear that a contract will not be signed until there is certainty around where hospital services will be delivered and that local health services will not be destabilised.

Dr Katie Armstrong, clinical chief officer at NHS Coastal West Sussex 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, Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “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.”

Contract negotiations are underway between Bupa CSH Ltd and all of the existing secondary care providers, including the trust, to agree how services will be provided as part of the new contract.

According to the CCG, Bupa CSH Ltd has said it wants to see orthopaedic services continue at the hospital trust and to sub-contract with them for elective orthopaedic work, such as knee and hip operations.

The aim of the new contract is to bring all of the current MSK services together into one co-ordinated, joined up service.

The prime provider would be accountable to the CCG for all local planned MSK services – the ones they provide and the ones they sub-contract – rather than individual organisations being responsible to the CCG.