Process which led to Lister revamp does not meet government policy - claim

THE decision-making process which led to the �150million investment in redeveloping the Lister Hospital site in Stevenage fails to meet the Government’s new policy on NHS service changes, health chiefs have been told.

In 2007, the decision was taken to close A&E and maternity wards at the QEII in Welwyn Garden City by 2012, and centralise services at Lister.

But, with the business case for the expansion of Lister’s A&E department, intensive care, operating theatres and wards still to be approved, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced last week four new criteria which NHS service reconfigurations must meet.

NHS organisations which have already started to look at changing services will need to ensure their plans improve patient outcomes, consider patient choice, have support from GPs, and are based on sound clinical evidence before continuing.

Grant Shapps, MP for Welwyn Hatfield, has written to Nick Carver and Anna Walker, the chief executives of the East and North Herts NHS Trust and NHS Hertfordshire respectively. He wrote: “I have spoken to the Secretary of State in person and he has confirmed this change in policy very firmly applies in the case of the proposed removal of acute services at the QEII.

“The Secretary of State has proposed that I arrange an urgent meeting with you.

“In the meantime, since the re-configuration at the QEII clearly does not meet the new criteria, plans for the closure of the A&E and maternity units should be placed on hold.”

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He added: “The guidance now clearly states that service changes must be led by clinicians and patients, not be driven from the top down.”

In a statement, Mr Carver said: “While we have not yet received Mr Shapps’ letter, we look forward to reading it and providing him with a response.

“We very much welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement and look forward to working with our GP colleagues in order to ensure the final planned changes for the Lister and QEII hospitals meet the Government’s new re-configuration principles.”

He added: “We will be urging that this work happens as quickly as possible to provide clarity to our current plans.”

Jane Halpin, deputy chief executive of NHS Hertfordshire, also welcomed the Government’s intervention. She said: “We will work with GP colleagues and our partners to make sure any changes we put forward meet with these criteria.”

Oliver Heald, MP for Hertfordshire North East, added: “I’m confident the criteria will be met and the proposal for Lister will go ahead as envisaged.”

Stephen McPartland, MP for Stevenage, said: “We just don’t want there to be any delay in the development.”