A reconfiguration of healthcare at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust is critically flawed, it has been claimed, after it emerged several key managers have never been consulted over their views.
In a heated public meeting which is part of the process which will decide the future of the trust, a number of leading clinicians said they had never been approached for their opinions and claimed some of the data the proposals relied upon was “not accurate”.
Mid Staffordshire was put into the hands of trust special administrators in April, after an independent review found it was “neither clinically or financially viable in the long term”.
It follows a damning public inquiry into care at Stafford Hospital, which is run by the trust, which found failures in standards of basic care between 2005 and 2009.
The TSAs published draft proposals last week which would dissolve the trust and put Stafford and neighbouring Cannock Chase Hospital into the hands of other NHS trusts.
The plans would see some critical care, maternity and paediatric services cut, which campaigners have blasted as a “downgrade” in levels of care.
The hospital would keep its part-time accident and emergency department, but nearly all specialist critical care would be migrated to neighbouring health trusts in Stoke-on-Trent and elsewhere in the West Midlands over a two or three year period.
However, the heads of critical care nursing, midwifery and children’s services all revealed at a public meeting that none of them had been consulted before the proposals, which deliver cuts to all their departments, were published.
The revelation brought cries of disbelief from many of the 1,100 people attending the first public meeting in the consultation process at Staffordshire County Showground.
Jake Botfield, consultant nurse in critical care at Stafford, said he had never been spoken to by the TSAs despite saving £750,000 from his departmental budgets while also improving standards of critical care at the hospital to “among the best in the country”.
Kim Woolliscroft, clinical head of children’s services, told the TSAs many of the numbers included in the draft proposals were simply “not accurate”.
She said: “It’s unfortunate you did not come to speak to me because I could have given you those figures.”
Among the discrepancies claimed to be in the draft proposals, she said, was a statement claiming no children’s surgical procedures had been carried out at Stafford last year.
Ms Woolliscroft said 1,044 such procedures had been carried out over the period.
She added that a mention in the report of a plan to introduce children’s community nursing services was a system which in fact had already been in place “for 18 years”, while she said figures for the numbers of children referred to Stafford last year had been under-counted by a factor of six.
She said: “I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.”
As she sat down, Anne Mellor, the head of midwifery, stood up to state she had also never been approached by the TSAs before they came up with their draft proposals.
She said that throughout the troubled period at Stafford “maternity services have never been in a mess”.
Ms Mellor said levels of care in the department were so high it “surpasses all of its local clinical counterparts”.
The TSAs said they would take account of the views of all staff and public responding to the consultation, which ends on 1 October.
Following the meeting Karen Howell, head of campaign group Support Stafford Hospital, said the inaccuracies in the draft proposals had exposed the process as “completely flawed”.
Speaking beforehand, one of the administrators, Alan Bloom, said he was “pleased with the level of services” proposed to be maintained under the draft plan.
“Ninety one per cent of all attendances today will continue, with a strong preservation of A&E.
“So there are some services we are recommending to move across for clinical future safety purposes and also for financial reasons as well - we don’t hide from those.
“But the vast majority of services will continue.”
He added the changes would lead to an “improvement” in services, with Stafford and Cannock Chase hospitals working “very closely” within a network of other hospitals, including a rotation of clinical staff and consultants from trusts in Stoke-on-Trent and the West Midlands.
Mr Bloom said any move of services would not happen overnight, giving the neighbouring trusts who will take over the running of both hospitals time to accommodate the transfer “over two or three years”.
He added the public “would be listened to”.
The administrators say the proposals have been “informed” by the area’s clinical commissioning groups - made up of GPs, which are responsible for buying in care and decide what health services the local population need.