Closure threat to vascular unit

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SPECIALIST vascular services at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI) could be moved elsewhere if new proposals are adopted.

A consultation is currently taking place into the possible closure of the vascular unit at the RLI after a review of services in Lancashire, Cumbria and Greater Manchester.

The review recommended the establishment of one clinical network across Lancashire and Cumbria, with three specialist vascular intervention centres. 

But it is recommending that the two centres in Lancashire should be based at the Royal Blackburn and Royal Preston hospitals, with another at Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle.

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT) said it had lodged an official appeal against the proposals.

Eric Morton, interim chief executive for the trust, said: “Over 40 years, our vascular unit has evolved under the strong influence of its consultant staff.

“It has developed a regional and national reputation, based on excellence of speciality training, and has played its part in national and international research and development.

“We want this to continue.”

Under the proposal, routine and planned vascular treatment would continue to be provided for patients at local hospitals including the RLI, as well as all outpatient and day case vascular surgery.

However, all specialist inpatient care would take place at one of the vascular intervention centres before patients are discharged or transferred to their local hospital for rehabilitation.

The NHS Lancashire and NHS Cumbria boards, which commission the service, have backed the proposal, and the former has pledged funding of £500,000 to get the new service off to a flying start should the proposals proceed.

Dr Jim Gardner, medical director for NHS Lancashire, said: “This is not a consultation about proposed closures.

“It is well-recognised by vascular experts that, where such services treat high numbers of patients, the services are safer and the resulting clinical outcomes for patients are better. 

“There is considerable evidence and professional backing to support the creation of the vascular network, and the three specialist vascular intervention centres.

“We know that the creation of these centres will result in more effective and safer services, and most importantly better patient outcomes.”

Dr Gardner said the proposal would affect only a small number of patients.

Further engagement with a joint Cumbria and Lancashire health and wellbeing joint overview and scrutiny committee will now take place.

The final decision will then be made by the North of England NHS Specialised Commissioning Board and the newly established NHS National Commissioning Board.

Vascular services consist of planned and emergency treatment for conditions where there is not enough blood reaching an organ or parts of the body such as the arms, legs or head, caused by a partial or total blockage, or the bursting of a large artery.

Services also include planned treatment for aneurysm, treatment for other types of abnormal blood vessels and to support other medical treatments such as kidney dialysis or chemotherapy access.