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EXCLUSIVE: Call for judicial review over Arrowe Park surgery shake-up
PRESSURE is building to reverse a controversial decision transferring vital surgery from Wirral’s main hospital to Chester.
Protestors against the move are hoping to have it declared invalid by seeking High Court permission for a judicial review.
NHS Wirral stirred a hornets’ nest after its board voted to move the centre for vascular services from Arrowe Park to the Countess of Chester Hospital.
The scheme had been mired in controversy since it was announced last July with Wirral councillors and MPs voicing their opposition.
Earlier this week council leader Cllr Phil Davies revealed to the Globe he is to ask Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to intervene.
Councillor Davies said he considered uprooting the “already excellent” vascular services centre from Arrowe Park to the Countess of Chester to be “perverse.”
One of the grounds for seeking a judicial review is if the court believes a public authority’s decision has been irrational.
The legal procedure requires a judge to question whether the decision "makes sense".
The request for review is being made by Merseyside TUC president Alec McFadden.
Mr McFadden is meeting later today with a leading QC to consider details of an application to court.
He has already called for the resignation of NHS Wirral chief executive Kathy Doran, claiming she “flagrantly” ignored the views of Wirral people attending consultation meetings and a petition of more than 2,000 names who signed in protest at the switch to Chester.
Mr McFadden told the Globe: “An emergency meeting of Merseyside TUC will be held next week to consider the proposition we move to call for a judicial review.
“The implications of the vascular services transfer are really frightening, not only for the well-being of Wirral people right now, but also for the future.
“We believe it is the thin end of a wedge which will see many other vital surgical procedures currently available at Arrowe Park Hospital being wound down and sent elsewhere.
“Our fear is an Americanisation of our local health facilities, which ultimately will result in there being one major hospital serving the whole of the region and the rest becoming little more than post-op rest and recovery centres, if they survive at all.”
Birkenhead MP Frank Field has been against the Chester move from the outset.
He said: “I am all in favour of a review.
“I have worked closely with Arrowe Park surgeons and they have been immensely impressive.
“I share their concerns that there will be an increasing number of centralising initiatives stretching over two or more hospital trust areas.
“There is at present no governance as to how these should proceed and we are clearly going to see more ‘centres of excellence’ proposed in the future.”
But Martin McEwan, director of communications and engagement at NHS Wirral, said: “A judicial review would not be something we would support because anything that could put further delay on the process of delivering improved services and a specialist centre to patients would not be welcomed.
“Also, anything that could be an additional drain on the public purse is not welcome.
"A judicial review seems fairly premature given the proposed referral to the Secretary of State.”
Among the region’s changes are the North Merseyside centre for vascular services will be housed at the Royal Liverpool Hospital from September, while the South Merseyside hub – which includes Wirral – will be at Chester from next April.
NHS Wirral says it is expected the shake-up will improve services to patients.
The Arrowe Park vascular unit provides treatment for life-threatening emergencies such as ruptured aneurysms, acute anemia and traumatic injury to blood vessels.
Surgeons, who insist on anonymity due to fear of being sacked, say many of these procedures require recovery in an Intensive Care Unit.
They have calculated Chester will have to spend millions upgrading its ICU to a standard already available at Arrowe Park.