September 4, 2008

MPshocked at Quality of NHS Decision-Making

By Barry Nelson

AN MP has said she is shocked by the quality of decision-making in the region?s NHS.

The comments follow Tuesday?s decision by County Durham Primary Care Trust to support, in principle, plans for public consultation over changes to hospital services.

The County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Darlington Memorial Hospital, Bishop Auckland General Hospital and the University Hospital of North Durham, in Durham City, has drawn up proposals to concentrate acute medical services on two of their main hospital sites.

But Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman expressed dismay at how the decision had been taken. She said: ?I was shocked at the quality of the decision-making. The hospital trust presented a document with no numbers and no detail.

?There was no challenge, there was no testing of the assumptions contained in the presentation. The trust failed to ask for any of this. ? Ms Goodman, who attended the trust meeting, said she was also astonished that the North-East Ambulance Service had yet to carry out an assessment of the impact of hospital changes, which could begin as early as April next year.

?They all acknowledge that transport and access in a large county like Durham is a problem, but they presented no solution, ? she said.

As the commissioner of healthcare for 500,000 people in County Durham, the NHS trust needs to approve the proposal from the hospital trust and agree that formal consultation can go ahead.

A decision about consultation is expected to be made at a joint meeting of the two NHS trust boards on September 24.

The hospital trust argues that the only way to guarantee longterm acute medical services in the area is to concentrate activity on two main sites and turn a third, as yet unnamed site into a centre for planned surgery, outpatient appointments and, potentially, a regional centre for rehabilitation.

Ms Goodman believes the plans threaten acute medical services at Bishop Auckland hospital and will result in the closure of its accident and emergency unit.

Stephen Eames, chief executive of the hospital trust, said that ?very strong? transport arrangements needed to be in place before the reorganisation took place.

He said the trust was in talks to improve bus services between the three main sites and that the trust was also looking at whether it could provide transport for certain patients.

A spokesman for the hospital trust said the ambulance service was ?actively involved? in the process.

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