ONE of the UK’s leading stroke consultants has described a consultation into Essex health changes as so complicated PhD graduates wouldn’t understand it – let alone the public.
Stroke specialist, Dr Sreeman Andole – who regularly appears on TV and will become assistant medical director for NHS England in May – raised doubts about the consultation at a health meeting on Wednesday.
Speaking to fellow board members of the Southend Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), he said: “I think it’s complicated for the common man to understand these mergers in Essex, and how they will work.
“You could do a PhD on it, and still not say with confidence what is right and wrong.”
The consultation ended on March 23. More than 1.2 million people who use hospitals in Southend, Basildon, Thurrock, Braintree and Chelmsford, will be affected by wide ranging proposals to axe and merge services.
Changes include downgrading Southend Hospital’s stroke unit as part of a £20m-a-year saving in mid and south Essex.
Other proposed NHS services being moved or centralised include:
•acute stroke services to Basildon Hospital
•specialist gynaecology to Southend
•orthopaedic operations to Southend and Braintree
•complex urology to Southend
•complex lung, vascular, heart and kidney to Basildon
Speaking after the board meeting, Dr Sreeman – who is based at Romford’s Queen’s Hospital – added: “This is intensely complicated stuff. I live and work in east London and I’ve seen mergers happen here. Even moving services four miles, within the same trust, to get them under one roof has been a struggle to get right.”
Despite his concerns, Dr Sreeman insisted that mergers in Essex would be better for staff and patients in the long term.
“I think change will improve things,” he said. “Consolidating specialist services under one roof will be beneficial for patients and staff. It will lead to improved services, and better patient survival rates.”
Fellow CCG board members challenged Dr Sreeman on his criticism of the consultation. They pointed to public information events held around Southend and at the Cliffs Pavilion.
Board members described public and clinical feed back on the proposed changes as “robust”.
“Issues around transportation and care of patients are the concerns that have come through,” said Janis Gibson, board lay member and lead on patient and public engagement.
The Mid and South Essex Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) has consistently rejected claims of failed consultation.
The partnership also claimed the concentration of expert skills in single hospitals will help reduce the strain on other services, and is not driven by cost savings.
Dr Sreeman sits on the Southend CCG board as a secondary care consultant.
“I don’t drive 35 miles to Southend not to challenge the things I see,” he said. “I hope I didn’t ruffle too many feathers!”