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How will hospital ‘chains’ affect Southwark patients?

Guy’s and St Thomas’ is leading the way in new NHS plans to create hospital ‘chains’ – where specialist equipment and staff can be shared.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (GSTT) began a trial of the scheme with Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust in January 2015, and it has been declared a success.

The success means that the scheme could be rolled out further.

Simon Stevens, chief exec of NHS England, has said that the scheme will benefit patients, as the best hopsitals will be delivering services inside others. GSTT gave an example of how Dartford and Gravesham is working with Evelina London Children’s Hospital – part of GSTT and based on the grounds of St Thomas’ – to bring specialist care closer to home for families.

Amanda Pritchard, the chief executive of GSTT, also said that the announcement might be the opportunity to ‘extend’ the collaboration.

But what we ask is: how will this scheme affect residents of Southwark?

Guy’s, St Thomas’ and Evelina London are some of the best hospitals in the country and we’re privileged to have them in our area. They obviously attract some of the best doctors, specialists and nurses from around the world to work in them – and this is what NHS England wants to share with hospitals in nearby Kent. We can see why – it’s great for patients in Kent who may otherwise be forced to travel in to London to receive the best treatment.

But such amazing staff and equipment are obviously a finite resource. How will sharing them with hospitals in Kent affect the services that would otherwise have been offered more locally to us? Does it mean that there will be fewer appointments available locally, as medics and equipment are being sent to Kent? Will some services be moved out to Kent?

Last week we reported that health bosses from Southwark’s Clinical Commission Group (CCG) were proposing options for the future of planned adult orthopaedic surgery. The CCG has said it wants to stop offering planned surgery across seven sites, and instead name two hospitals as orthopaedic centres where elective surgery will be carried out for patients from south east London. There are six options offering configurations of south east London hospitals to act as these centres, a mixture of Kent and local sites. One option is to have both centres in Kent – so it’s clear that asking patients to travel to Kent is possible.

The News will put these questions to GSTT, and will hopefully receive answers for next week’s paper.


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