A PRESSURE group has called for answers about the Lister Surgicentre contract amid fears health services will be cut.

The East and North Herts Independent Health Monitoring Group has submitted six questions under the Freedom of Information Act to primary care trust (PCT) NHS Hertfordshire regarding the contract at the privately-run Surgicentre.

Among the questions asked by the group, set up last month, is whether Surgicentre owners Clinicenta Ltd – part of Carillion Plc – have to meet a pre-determined number of clinical procedures to secure an agreed annual income, as well as what the terms and conditions of terminating the contract are.

The Surgicentre, based at Lister Hospital in Stevenage, has come under fire after three unexpected deaths among patients who had elective surgery, with health watchdog the Care Quality Commission set to take enforcement action following an inspection in December.

The Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), a body which will replace the PCT at the end of the month, has also stopped referring patients for knee and hip surgery.

“Both GPs and the wider community deserve to know how this contract has failed and whether the work the Surgicentre has not been performing will mean cuts to services later this year,” said Stevenage resident Patrick Newman, a spokesman for the monitoring group which has convened under national pressure group 38 Degrees.

“It has been rumoured that although work has been channelled away from this private company they won’t suffer any loss of income which will inevitably mean cuts to services. The PCT has been amazingly reticent on virtually everything about the Surgicentre and how it manages the contract. These questions give them and the successor CCG an opportunity to inform the community what the cost of this failed contract is and what scope there is for returning the service to NHS management.

“The issue here is the accountability for the use of taxpayers money and the breakdown in services that the Surgicentre were contracted to provide. Patients and GPs need to be told.”