Aug 1 2012 By Helen Hunt
CAMPAIGNERS fighting plans to take vascular operations away from Arrowe Park Hospital are recruiting a QC as the battle for specialist surgical centres heats up.
Despite fierce opposition from medics, patients and councillors, the trust boards of NHS Merseyside and NHS Cheshire, Warrington and Wirral, chose the Countess of Chester hospital over Arrowe Park to be one of the two specialist treatment centres for Cheshire and Merseyside.
It means from April 1, 2013, complex surgery on burst or blocked blood vessels and arteries will no longer be carried out at Arrowe Park, although there will still be vascular doctors on site and straight-forward surgery will be provided there.
Campaigners are refusing the accept the decision. President of the TUC Alec McFadden was so outraged he called for the chief executive of NHS Wirral Kathy Doran to resign.
And Wirral Council leader Phil Davies has vowed to appeal by asking the Secretary of State Andrew Lansley to block the plans.
Wirral TUC has now called an emergency meeting next week to discuss its next move and is hopeful by enlisting a top lawyer to take the case to the High Court with the view of getting a judicial review.
Mr McFadden said: "For the first time in 50 years Wirral TUC is meeting in August (their traditional break from meetings) because this situation is so serious.
“We are going to get a QC to take this to the High Court. We'll then issue proceedings and ask the courts to grant us permission to take the case to the High Court for a judicial review.
“It's a legal process which will force them to show all the steps they've taken in making the decision.
“The big thing is they can't do anything from the minute we issue that until the court case takes place. We managed to stop it initially last November by forcing them to take it to scrutiny committees at Wirral Council.
“We believe there was no proper consultation. The whole idea of consultation is to consult the people and to take into consideration the views of the people.”
Mr McFadden claims the decision was made against the views of the public. He said more than 3,500 signatures opposed the move, Wirral councillors unanimously opposed it and all four of Wirral’s MPs rejected it.
Martin McEwan, director of communications for NHS Cheshire, Warrington and Wirral said consultation on the plans had been thorough and its results clearly documented.
He said: “The results do show Wirral are clearly against the decision. We’ve made no secret of that fact.
“But this is not a decision just for Wirral. This is a Cheshire and Merseyside vascular service review not Wirral. And we have to make a decision for the people of Cheshire and Merseyside.”
He said having a specialist arterial will bring benefits to everyone including Wirral and that a delay in Chester becoming an arterial centre would delay those benefits Wirral people could reap.
He added: “It would be disappointing if that (judicial review) happens and obviously it would not be welcomed.”
Local authorities’ overview and scrutiny committees have the power to appeal the decision to the Secretary of State. Wirral’s committee has indicated it will appeal and is now putting together a formal documentation.
Meanwhile, St Helens, Halton and Warrington councils have also said they will appeal because they believe the plans will reduce services at Warrington Hospital.