Why didn’t health bosses inform patients about their plans?

By Carole Dennett Apr 6, 2024

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Integrated Care Board (H&IW ICB) did not follow the correct procedures when changing a contract for health treatment on the Island.

Since 2016 the Lighthouse Clinic, in Newport, has provided dermatology services under contract to the IW NHS Trust, and is highly regarded by its patients who recently were unable to make appointments. Staff told patients the contract was moving to Portsmouth, and they feared for their jobs.

In last week’s IW Observer we described being passed from pillar to post when trying to find out what was happening. The clinic said the IW NHS Trust was dealing with it; they referred us to H&IW ICB, and we finally got a comment from Portsmouth NHS Trust confirming a new “sub-contract” had been signed and services would continue as normal. However, they couldn’t answer any questions and referred us back to H&IW ICB.

This week we asked H&IW ICB how they had met their legal duty to involve patients in plans to change treatment providers. We were told: “Patients who had appointments booked and were routinely visiting the clinic were reassured by letter that although the provider of the service was changing, the frontline service would not be affected.”

We knew that some patients had not received this, so asked for more details. We were told they are only being sent out now. We pointed out that by law patients are entitled to be involved at the planning stage – not after the contract has been signed. We received no response by the time we went to press.

Early last year when the two trusts were merged, Island Labour raised concerns that services might move off the Island. The IW NHS Trust claimed then that each trust would remain responsible for its own services. Bob Seely MP welcomed the merger, saying new laws from Conservatives enabled such changes. He added the announcement “paves the way for more reforms.”

Labour’s Richard Quigley said: “It is no surprise that our beleaguered MP hurried to support the merger of the Island’s NHS with Portsmouth without looking at what it was likely to mean for Islanders.

“I have every sympathy with staff involved locally; they are trying to make the best of a bad job, having been forced to make £8 million in cuts to deal with the lack of government funding, but we are left feeling like the poor cousins of Portsmouth.

“I suspect mainland bureaucrats knew this would be unpopular, so ignored their duty to inform patients, thinking they wouldn’t be found out. What is to prevent them saving money by moving the service to Portsmouth after this contract finishes?

“If Bob was less keen on photo opportunities and more keen on voting to improve the NHS, we wouldn’t be in this position.”

The IW Observer has also asked for more information about the decision to move the contract for Lighthouse Clinic services to Portsmouth NHS Trust.