Healthcare bosses were quizzed last night (Monday) about the future for services on the Isle of Wight.
The sometimes heated debate took place at Cowes Enterprise College, where a panel of representatives from the Isle of Wight NHS and Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) were questioned about the impact of the acute services redesign (ASR).
The ASR will see 11 per cent of specialist hospital services transferred to the mainland.
Moving most critical services
However, chair of the Isle of Wight NHS Trust, Vaughan Thomas said this would mean 500 fewer journeys to the mainland for Islanders each year.
The panel said they would not be cutting services in their entirety.
Mr Thomas said:
“We are moving the most critical services that a lot of people don’t use. This potentially includes cancer surgeries.”
He added more pre-surgery and follow-up appointments would take place on the Island: “We want people to be off the Island for the minimal amount of time necessary.”
Helps to preserve staff skills
Clinical lead for the redesign, Dr Steve Parker, said moving more specialised services would help preserve staff skills.
“In some circumstances, staff are only undertaking these specialised services between ten and 20 times per year. If I only undertook ten of a certain surgery a year, people would start to ask questions about my skills.”
Services that could move
Services expected to move includes treatment for very premature babies, stroke patients, bowel and colon surgery. The panel said there would be no reduction in the critical care unit.
However, no formal decisions have been made ahead of a public consultation.
Problems recruiting staff
Wait times for Island patients was also discussed. Last week, it was revealed that more than 20 per cent of cancer patients were not being treated within two months of their urgent GP referral.
Dr Parker said part of the problem was the Trust’s struggle to recruit and retain staff.
“For whatever reason, people don’t want to come and work on the Island.”
Parker: Bridge won’t happen in our lifetime
Questions were also raised about transport on and off the Island.
Dr Parker said:
“We have to acknowledge there are times in the year when the fog comes down or the weather is bad and we have to be able to tackle it alone.
“Yes, if we had a bridge or a tunnel our services would probably be very different. But it’s unlikely a bridge will happen in the lifetime of this project, or the lifetime of many people on this panel.”
Limited resilience to deal with major incidents
With the Isle of Wight Festival just a week away, the panel were asked about the potential response to a major incident on the Isle of Wight, given the Trust only has access to one helicopter.
Dr Parker said:
“We have limited resilience to deal with major incidents, but that underlies why we need good connections with mainland hospitals.
“It would overwhelm us very quickly and other agencies would have to step in and respond.”
STP Partnership ‘fully supportive’
The panel said mainland hospitals had been ‘fully supportive’ of the partnership.
Hampshire and Isle of Wight sustainability and transformation lead, Richard Samuel, said:
“Their chief executives will do what they need to do to ensure people of the Isle of Wight have the same standard of care elsewhere.”
This article is from the BBC’s LDRS (Local Democracy Reporter Service) scheme, which OnTheWight is taking part in. Ed