Patients could face trip down A12 in hospital treatment shake-up
PUBLISHED: 16:30 22 July 2019 | UPDATED: 16:30 22 July 2019
Hospital patients across Suffolk and north Essex could face trips along the A12 for operations under a multi-million pound treatment shake-up, it has emerged.
Nick Hulme and his team at the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) are planning to build a single orthopaedic centre at either Ipswich or Colchester hospital.
Trust bosses hope the move will reduce cancellations, shorten waiting times and improve care for patients.
Today, the chief executive unveiled architect's impressions for the building, which would initially house 54 beds.
A pot of £34million has been set aside for the project.
Mr Hulme was clear that no decisions will be made about the orthopaedics centre until a 12-week public consultation takes place - exploring how patients feel about potential issues, such as travel arrangements.
It is the first time since the merger in July 2018 that a change in clinical services is planned.
So what will this new centre mean for patients?
Currently, around 1,500 people are treated in orthopaedics across both Ipswich and Colchester for injuries such as fractures and hip or knee replacements.
"If we assume 1,500 patients are currently spread across both sites, if we move orthopaedic elective services onto one site, then half that number (750 odd) will have to move from one site to the other," Mr Hulme explained.
"However, they will only move for their operation - so all their outpatient work and assessments they have before the operation will take place at their nearest site.
"Say for example, if, and it's a big if, the orthopaedic centre ends up at Colchester, and if you're a patient that needs a knee replacement living in Ipswich, all your outpatient care will take place at Ipswich, you'd go to Colchester for the operation, but all of your follow up and rehab would take place at Ipswich.
"That could be up to 750 patients - if you think that last year we had 1.5 million treatments, that gives you about the number of patients as a proportion that will be affected.
MORE: First look at plans for new Ipswich Hospital A&E
He added: "Clearly, for somebody who might have travel problems - if you live up in Aldeburgh for example that's a long way to go to Colchester but it would only be for the operation, you will not be cancelled for 'non-clinical reasons', your clinical outcome will be better and your waiting times will be shorter because we won't be cancelling.
"There will be potentially some inconvenience but we will look at the travel implications for that, say for example we're starting to explore what transport we could offer.
"Our plans may change following the public consultation."
The possibility of running shuttle bus services is being considered, said Paul Fenton, director of estates.
Why is the orthopaedics service changing?
Trust bosses believe a single treatment centre will create fewer cancellations, shorter waiting times, and provide patients with better treatment and outcomes overall.
"In our plans for merger we committed that wherever we anticipated making significant changes to the way we deliver services, we would work with our patients and the public and, if necessary, conduct formal public consultation," said Mr Hulme.
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"We have spent this year developing our five-year strategy and plans to use this money to provide significant benefits to our patients, their families and carers.
"When asked over three years ago now, when we started to run both Ipswich and Colchester together, will this mean a change in clinical services I was always very clear and said it may, but only if we can demonstrate that it would create better access for patients and it would produce a better clinical outcome.
He added: "(If) you have protected elective beds that are in a separate building, you can't admit emergency patients into those beds, which means you shorten your waiting times, and you have better clinical outcomes because there's less chance of infection."
At the moment, the trust is cancelling "far too many" operations in orthopaedics because of a growing demand for A&E - with these patients going into beds meant for elective cases.
"We do still need to recognise that nobody particularly likes to travel another 20 minutes or 30 minutes, or if the Copdock roundabout is playing up 40 minutes down to Colchester and so any change is difficult," Mr Hulme continued.
"But I think for patients who may have to travel a little bit further we clearly have to look at the travel implications, we clearly have to look at the other implications for both staff and patients which is why we're doing the public consultation.
"So we will take a series of options to the public. We think we know what our preferred option is but there may be things we haven't thought about."
Have other options been explored?
Mr Hulme said the team did look at a greenfield site option, but it did not have enough clinical support around it, i.e. rehab services, aftercare beds etc.
Bosses did not want to limit the number of procedures they could deliver, and decided they needed additional infrastructure to give patients the best support possible.
Mr Hulme added: "We did look at the Toys R Us building because we thought that would be perfect being right on A14 and the Copdock roundabout, but it came down to that infrastructure problem again."
What will bosses consider when choosing Ipswich or Colchester?
Director of estates, Paul Fenton, said they are able to put the building on either site.
However, bosses will need to consider the following aspects when deciding on Ipswich or Colchester:
- Clinical benefits for patients
- Travel to and from the site
- Access to and from the site
No decisions will be made until the end of the public consultation, he said.
So what happens now?
A public consultation exploring the changes, due to last around 12 weeks, is expected to run in early 2020.
Mr Hulme already has pre-consultation meetings set up, to consider questions the exercise will need to answer for patients, families and carers.
Frequently asked questions and answers to them will be published on the ESNEFT website in due course, he added.