Campaigners trying to save Lewisham Hospital have claimed a major victory after NHS chiefs agreed to establish a bone surgery centre there.
Health bosses had floated the idea of only having two sites where orthopaedic operations could be carried out in south-east London – and it was feared Lewisham would not be one of them.
But the care chiefs who suggested the changes have now agreed following months of pressure from campaigners.
Mark Easton, who is head of the five-year programme to revamp the NHS in South-east London – called Our Healthier South East London (OHSEL) – has revealed Lewisham, will now be one of three centres getting bone surgery centres.
He wrote to Southwark council’s healthy communities committee chairwoman Councillor Rebecca Lury last week to say: “We will move forward with creating an Orthopaedic Clinical Network (OCN) across three sites to oversee the same delivery of quality and efficiency benefits over the next 12 to 18 months.
“We have agreed we will create an OCN, led by our three provider trusts, over our three main elective sites. “We still intend to secure the patient benefits identified through the process.
“The network will be appropriately resourced.” The transition will be delivered through “sustainability and transformation plans (STPs)” and according to a plan by leading orthopaedic surgeon Professor Tim Briggs, whose 2012 report Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) looked at the state of orthopaedics in England and how to save money with improved care.
Mr Easton said: “Commissioners will review the delivery of the Briggs recommendations over the three sites after 12-18 months, deciding whether the quality and efficiency targets have been met and can be sustained on the three sites.”
The other two centres are planned for Guys’ and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and Orpington Hospital, which is run by King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. The Save Lewisham Hospital (SLH) campaign had claimed withdrawing orthopaedic operations from the site would mean it would have to be downgraded – that any accident & emergency ward would need that quality of surgery to back it up if it was to survive. Pressure to have orthopaedics at Lewisham had also come from scrutiny committees of the six boroughs covered by OHSEL – Southwark, Lambeth, Lewisham, Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley.
Former paediatric consultant Tony Sullivan, a member of SLH and also national chairman of the Keep Our NHS public, said: “We are very pleased with this result. “This decision came after a long campaign, working with councillors, which raised concerns that only having two centres would seriously undermine care at Lewisham and the financial and clinical stability of its trust.”
Councillor Alan Hall said: “This is a real victory for the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign and the Joint Health Scrutiny Committee. Including Lewisham Hospital in the Orthopaedic Surgery sites was essential for good quality local services.
“I will be asking for an assurance that there will be full public consultation on any significant changes to our NHS as a result of the STP proposed by OHSEL.
“It is right that the public have a say in this major programme described as challenging.” Mr Easton added that further plans are in the pipeline for diabetes, prevention, maternity, elective care and finance.
A statement from OHSEL said: “Following further discussions between CCGs and our providers, agreement has now been reached regarding how we move forward with the development of elective orthopaedic care within South- east London.
“We have agreed that we will create an Orthopaedic Clinical Network, led by our three provider trusts, to oversee the delivery of the quality and efficiency benefits set out in Professor Tim Briggs’ Getting it Right First Time (GiRFT) report over our three main elective trusts (King’s, Guys and St Thomas’ and Lewisham and Greenwich).
“Over the course of the last year we have looked at the desirability of creating an Orthopaedic Clinical Network that would provide inpatient elective orthopaedic services on fewer sites in SEL, allowing us to implement the GiRFT recommendations and improve quality of care and efficiency.
“In November last year, we considered proposals to centralise care on two sites, while ensuring that any change proposed meets certain safeguards.
“Through this process we received strong representation that we should thoroughly test and describe a three-site option for delivering orthopaedic care, and we should ask our providers to work collaboratively in describing that model.
“During these assessments, it has become clear that it has not been possible at this time for us to reach a consensus within the NHS in South-east London on what the best model to adopt would be that met the conditions we had set out.
“We still intend to secure the patient benefits identified through the process, and therefore we will move forward with creating an Orthopaedic Clinical Network across three sites to oversee the same delivery of quality and efficiency benefits as described by Professor Briggs over the next 12 to 18 months.
“The network will be appropriately resourced and a clinical director will be appointed by the STP. From next year we intend to commission our providers against the standards and performance metrics set out in the GiRFT report.
“The network’s progress in delivering the quality and efficiency benefits will be independently assured by the London Clinical Senate.
“Commissioners will review the delivery of the Briggs recommendations over three sites after either 12 to 18 months, at which time a decision will made on whether quality and efficiency benefits have been met and can be sufficiently sustained across three sites, or if we should continue with a process to move to a different configuration for services in SEL.
“At all stages, we will continue to engage with patients and representatives on progress with this.”