Hospital under fire as surgical unit moves and is downgraded’

PUBLISHED: 17:21 02 December 2009 | UPDATED: 11:39 12 August 2010

HEALTH campaigners have blasted a hospital trust for not consulting the public about moving a surgical centre to an inferior site with fewer beds

HEALTH campaigners have blasted a hospital trust for not consulting the public about moving a surgical centre to an 'inferior' site with fewer beds.

Orpington Treatment Centre (OTC), which has 24 beds, was due to close in 2010 and transfer its facilities to Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup (QMS) but a decision was made last Thursday to make an interim move to the former private patient unit in the Princess Royal University Hospital, Farnborough.

Hospital bosses claim the number of beds at the Farnborough unit will match the number of beds at the OTC.

Julie Mott, who rallied to save the treatment centre before the body set up to change healthcare in south-east London, A Picture of Health (APoH), made a decision to close it, said: "This is madness. I don't see the point in moving it once and then moving it again. They have not given any thought about what will happen to the patients."

The Independent Reconfiguration Panel, which advises the Secretary of State for Health on contested NHS proposals, supported the move to QMS but recommended: "...plans for the future of the Orpington Hospital site be clarified urgently and that Orpington Hospital staff be fully involved in all further considerations."

The Trust says it has consulted unions but had not formally consulted workers, which is clearly in breach of the recommendations, before making the decision.

A letter sent to staff Mr Streather reads: "It has been agreed now with Staff Side that the best option is to undertake a two-phased process where in the first instance, the staff and service at Orpington Treatment Centre will be moved to what was previously the private patients unit at the PRU site and provide the same service with the same staff.

"A formal consultation process with Orpington Treatment Centre staff will begin later this week on the move."

Asked why it was consulting staff after a decision had been made, a spokesperson for the South London Healthcare Trust said: "When we talk about consultation, we mean the HR consultation with staff about their terms and conditions, this is normal practice following a decision to move services within an organisation."

Mrs Mott added: "It is absolutely appalling that, yet again, the Trust is behaving in a manner that basically says 'we don't care what anyone else thinks, we'll do just as we please'.

"They must abide by the IRP's findings. OTC should not close until QMS is ready to take on all elective surgery. Interim moves were not included in, or consulted on, in APOH."

Mrs Mott said that chief executive Chris Streather was asked at a Trust board meeting last Wednesday afternoon whether any decision had been made to close the centre and he said no.

Yet maintenance staff had already been told there were not going to be any more operations after December, leading campaigners to accuse the Trust of secrecy over the move.

Mrs Mott added: "There is only three weeks. That won't give them very much time."

A spokesperson for the Trust added: "The reason that we opted not to wait and do the move in one go was correctly, asserted by the Staff Side committee who felt that staff at Orpington needed the uncertainty to end and have a clear direction about the future of the service. There is a serious risk to recruitment, retention and therefore the continuity of the clinical service if we allow this uncertainty to persist.

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