Report into South Downs A&E future discussed

Protest outside County Hall before the hasc meeting on December 5
Protest outside County Hall before the hasc meeting on December 5

Health chiefs were quizzed last week over a controversial health contract award which could put South Downs A&E services at risk.

Health bosses from both the Western Sussex Hospital Trust and Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which awarded Bupa CSH Ltd a £235m musculoskeletal (MSK) contract, were before West Sussex County Council’s Health and Social Care committee on Friday December 5.

An independent impact assessment into the decision was jointly commissioned by the Trust and CCG after Western bosses went public with fears that its accident and emergency units at Chichester’s St Richard’s Hospital and Worthing Hospital could suffer as a result of the deal. Both are used by South Downs residents.

One question asked by GP and committee vice chairman Dr James Walsh was why private procurement was chosen over public bidders.

Marie Dodd, the CCG’s chief operations officer, said legal advice made it clear there was ‘no other option’ but to offer the services out to tender.

She said: “The CCG (sought legal guidance) and reluctantly had to accept the advice that procurement was going to be the best vehicle, and the required vehicle for us to use in those circumstances.”

Dr Katie Armstrong, chief officer at the CCG, said a summary of the assessment would be made public once both bodies had studied it in full.

The results will be shared with committee members ahead of HASC’s next meeting on January 21, 2015.

Committee’s chairman, Margaret Evans, said: “We will look very closely at the impact assessment’s results as the MSK contract has been a matter of significant concern to the committee and to the public.

“We sought reassurances at today’s meeting that services will remain free at the point of need and the CCG confirmed this. Our ultimate aim is to make sure residents get the best service.”