OUTRAGED campaigners said it was a ‘disgrace’ that health chiefs have delayed a public update on major decisions without providing a new deadline.
As previously reported, an impact assessment report found that handing an NHS MSK contract to Bupa CSH could lead to financial and clinical risks to hospital services.
The public expected to hear a report on mitigating actions needed to address these risks at the health and adult social care select committee (HASC) meeting next Wednesday, January 21.
But last week it was revealed that health chiefs were still deliberating.
Margaret Guest, chair of campaign group Don’t Cut Us Out, said it was a ‘disgrace’ that a new date was not set.
“This is a disgrace and affront to local democracy and public accountability,” she said.
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 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, the CCG’s clinical chief officer, said the CCG’s driver was improving care for patients.
“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,” she said.
“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, while we work together as a system to meet demand and keep patients safe.”
A WSCC spokeswoman said that if necessary, the committee could arrange for a special meeting to take place to discuss any update ahead of its next scheduled meeting in March.
Margaret Evans, HASC chairwoman, said: “We are keen to see a conclusion to these negotiations as soon as possible.
However, we fully understand it is important to get it right. We all want a positive outcome and to make sure residents get the best service.”
The HASC meeting will take place at 10.30am at County Hall in Chichester.