Mixed views on merger plans for Ipswich and Colchester hospitals
- Credit: Contributed
Proposals to merge the management of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals have been given a cautious welcome – but have come with a warning that any changes for patients should be based on clinical need rather than cutting costs.
Conservative MPs Will Quince, from Colchester, and Dr Dan Poulter, from Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, both said the proposed changes could improve services for patients by increasing the focus on clinical needs.
Dr Poulter, a former health minister, said the move was not radical: “This is a continuation of a process that has been going on for some years. In that sense it is evolution and not revolution.
“There are benefits from having a joint management, you can achieve economies of scale when ordering and save the cost of a chief executive,” he said.
Mr Quince was also optimistic that it would improve services: “We have had an assurance that this will not affect Accident and Emergency and most routine services – and it could lead to the establishment of specialist services in Colchester or Ipswich which can be shared.”
However Ipswich Labour MP Sandy Martin did have concerns: “I will want to know that any move of services away from one hospital to the other is to improve clinical outcomes and not just to cut costs.
“If you are able to improve the outcome for patients by developing a specialist service at one site then that would be welcomed by everyone I think. But if you are just doing this for economic reasons then that would not be acceptable.”
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Health watchdogs were also hopeful that the news would be good for patients.
Dr David Sollis, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Essex, said: “We broadly welcome the idea of Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals forming this partnership and hope it will continue to help improve standards across both sites, but obviously particularly at Colchester which has struggled to meet challenges highlighted by numerous CQC inspections.
“It is of course absolutely imperative that the people the two hospitals serve are listened to and their views factored into any service changes that this new arrangement may bring, and as a voice for patients we will be working closely with them to ensure a good programme of engagement and consultation is worked to in order to achieve that end.”
Andy Yacoub, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, added: “The proposed merger between Ipswich and Colchester hospitals represents a logical step in the improvement process for Colchester and in attempts to address the current financial shortfall of both these local acute service providers.
“Healthwatch Suffolk has, in partnership with Healthwatch Essex, been involved in this process since the outset of the discussions.
“Our Healthwatch roles as independent advisors and observers has helped shape consultation and engagement to-date. 200 or so clinicians and staff have been consulted and some engagement of patient groups has taken place. These are recorded in the Partnership’s latest report.
“We now expect such engagement to be taken to a wider audience, in order that the best possible outcomes for staff, clinicians, patients and their families can be realised.”
“It is difficult to know exactly what impact this particular partnership will have on both hospitals, and more importantly on patients who use their services.
“We understand that patients and carers may be concerned about possible changes to services and, for example, the potential need to travel further for treatment, or to see a specialist.
“Certainly, the hospitals will be reliant on suitable patient transport options and this must be examined and improved prior to the launch of any new service plans.”
“It will be absolutely essential that the experience of local people is at the very heart of plans for service change or collaboration.
“That is why we are actively encouraging people to share their views directly with us as the independent watchdog for health and care services.
“As the Chair for the partnership’s Patient Advisory Group of Ipswich Hospital and a member of key strategic forums related to this work, I will continue to use peoples’ views to challenge and influence the outcome of these developing plans.
“It is easy for people to have their say. Simply visit our website, email or call us on our Freephone number. We are always listening and acting on the information we gather.”