VOTE: Are you concerned the Vascular unit could be axed at St Richard’s Hospital?

The major vascular unit at St Richard’s Hospital could be axed and centralised to Brighton as part of a shake-up of specialised health services across Sussex.

Vascular surgery is carried out at St Richard’s, Worthing and Eastbourne hospitals. But an independent review into vascular services seen by the Observer yesterday has said this can no longer continue because none of the hospitals alone meet criteria recommended by the Vascular Society, including 24/7 cover by vascular surgeons.

Instead NHS Sussex wants to base cover in Brighton on the basis it is a teaching hospital, is a major trauma unit and is in a central location.

Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs St Richard’s Hospital, said yesterday the move would affect a small number of patients and if the changes went ahead, they would not affect the status of St Richard’s.

The trust’s medical director, Dr Phillip Barnes, said: “The review of major vascular surgery in Sussex is concerned with improving care for a very small number of patients, who require specialised treatment. The trust agrees this is the correct way forward for West Sussex patients.

“Regardless of the outcome of that review, the vascular surgery cover required to operate a fully-functioning emergency hospital, including full A&E and surgery, will remain at St Richard’s.”

Vascular surgeons specialise in treating the blood vessels of the body, except vessels of the heart. NHS West Sussex said these patients had complex care needs and there was a strong national clinical consensus they received better-quality care when treated by specialists dealing with a high volume of patients, therefore having significant expertise.

It said the independent review in Sussex had recommended a specialist centre in Brighton supported by ‘extensive’ services at hospitals in Chichester, Worthing, Haywards Heath and Eastbourne.

Deborah Tomalin, NHS Sussex lead for clinical networks said: “NHS Sussex will be working with expert local clinicians to look at how best to arrange vascular services in Sussex in order to save more lives and give people the best chance of full recovery after vascular surgery.

“The emerging view is we need to retain an extensive range of services at Chichester, Worthing, Haywards Heath and Eastbourne. We also need to provide 24/7 emergency vascular surgery, arterial surgery and vascular interventional radiology at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton where this will be vital for people treated for major trauma such as major road traffic accidents.

“In the next few months we will be engaging people across Sussex about what this would mean for them and how best to implement changes.”

The changes in Sussex also come at a time when the South Central Strategic Health Authority is changing specialised services in Hampshire and Oxfordshire.

Last month West Sussex County Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) looked at plans to move vascular surgery from Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth to Southampton. Talks are currently taking place between WSHT and QA regarding cover between the two.

The HOSC said while it thought the changes would lead to better outcomes for residents, it was concerned present difficulties around ambulance crossing the county border should be addressed in the final proposals.

At last month’s meeting the Chichester District Councillor for Selsey, Bev Tinson, who is a member of the HOSC and also CDC’s health standards panel, said there were too many unknowns when planning changes in provision.