Surgery secrecy

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I was pleased to see from your report (Gazette, October 9) that the West Sussex health and adult social care select committee (HASC) has insisted that the Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) conducts a full and proper impact assessment before any changes are made to the organisation and contractual arrangements in respect of musculoskeletal (MSK) services in West Sussex.

This is not before time, as the assessment should have been undertaken before the CCG even thought of awarding the new contract to BUPA/CSH Ltd. I am also pleased to note that the chairman of the HASC has insisted that the assessment should be reviewed in public by the select committee, before the CCG proceeds further with its plans.

I am, however, sceptical about the CCG’s view that the new arrangements have the full support of patients and the local public. There has been no formal public consultation exercise in the usual sense of the words, either for the normal three-month period or even the minimum six-week period. I understand that this is because the CCG management considered that they were under no legal obligation to conduct such an exercise because they saw it as just a contractual change.

Instead, they have used something called a public reference panel (PRP) to assess the public’s view. However, the PRP meets behind closed doors and includes appointed people who are said to represent the public in the areas in which they live, albeit that their heads are well below the parapet and most of the public do not know who they are, where they live or how to contact them.

In relation to the CCG’s view that it is acceptable to hide behind its limited interpretation of the consultation rule book, I note from the minutes of the CCG’s PRP meeting held on September 3 its own admission that: “NHS Coastal West Sussex is the first CCG to be taking on such a huge service change on this scale”. Also, I understand that the chairman of the Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust’s board of governors has been similarly critical of the CCG’s lack of public consultation, suggesting that the approach adopted is contrary to the intentions of the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

So much for the CCG’s view that the proposed change did not warrant formal public consultation and, because of this, I suspect that the flawed process may well put the letting of the new contract to BUPA/CSH Ltd at risk. The whole concept needs to be properly debated in public before any steps are taken that might have an adverse impact on the provision of secondary medical care by the trust’s two hospitals (St Richards in Chichester and Worthing Hospital) and I urge both the select committee and the general public to ensure that this is so.

Derek Waller

Surrey Wharf

Arundel

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