Doctor warns move 'puts patients at risk'

First published in News Salisbury Journal: Photograph of the Author by

A GP who represents South Wiltshire’s family doctors has warned that moving vascular surgery from Salisbury to Bournemouth is putting patients at risk.

Dr Toby Davies said: “People will have to travel too far when they are too ill to do so.”

Dr Davies, a board member of Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group, added that this was the “thin end of the wedge”, with other services being lined to up to move to larger population centres, ultimately threatening the viability of the district hospital.

“This is the first example of what we call specialist commissioning taking stuff away from Wiltshire, and the population having to travel out of county,” he said.

“As a commissioning group we are here for the benefit of the population of Wiltshire, and that doesn’t mean having our district general hospitals run down and ineffective.

“In the rush-hour, an ambulance might take as long as an hour and half to get from Ludgershall to Bournemouth. It’s a long, long journey for an elderly person.

“And it takes an ambulance out of the system for a very long time.”

NHS England is putting together a five-year plan to concentrate specialised services in regional centres, which is due to go out to public consultation soon.

Urgent vascular surgery has already moved from Salisbury to Bournemouth and the aim is for all major vascular surgery to follow.

Dr Davies is the senior partner at the Castle Practice, which covers Tidworth and Ludgershall, and chairs the Sarum group of GPs.

He spoke publicly of his concerns at a recent meeting of the Wiltshire Health and Wellbeing Board in Trowbridge.

He told the Journal: “We are very worried about this. Salisbury is not a very big hospital and it wouldn’t take a great deal to destabilise it. One could worry about cardiology. If they start taking more things away, will they be able to keep enough anaesthetists at the hospital?”

His fears were echoed at the board meeting by Maggie Rae, Wiltshire’s director of public health, who said: “What is going to be left in the three district general hospitals in Wiltshire and how are they are going to serve the population? “I just feel we will have a second class service.”

Debra Elliott, director of commissioning at NHS England, replied that NHS England was aware of the concerns, and discussions would be held with clinicians.

A spokesman for the hospital said: " Salisbury District Hospital is part of a vascular network and the Royal Bournemouth is now the centre for major arterial vascular surgery. However, planned vascular surgery is continuing to be carried out in Salisbury.”

He said there are currently no plans to centralise any other services that are run at Salisbury District Hospital and any future plans developed nationally would be subject to public consultation.

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