STRUCTURE: Heart of England Foundation Trust has launched a consultation on reconfiguring surgical services across its three hospitals.

The West Midlands trust said its plans to create “centres of excellence” at its Heartlands, Good Hope and Solihull hospitals would help it improve quality, meet new clinical standards, cut waiting times and save money.

Under the plans, Heartlands will provide most emergency surgery including orthopaedic trauma and will be the sole provider of planned thoracic, vascular, colorectal and paediatric surgery. Good Hope will lead on emergency and planned urology and upper gastrointestinal surgery, as well as bariatrics. Solihull Hospital will provide planned orthopaedics and ophthalmology surgery.

Good Hope and Heartlands will retain their accident and emergency departments and Solihull its urgent care centre.

Each hospital will continue to provide antenatal and midwifery services, diagnostics and some planned surgery.

However to achieve the new distribution of specialties each hospital will lose as well as gain services, and some patients will have to travel further for their operations.

Heart of England said outside of planned surgery all other appointments would continue to be at their local hospital.

It also claimed 70 per cent of patient journeys would be no more than 30 minutes.

Matthew Cooke, the trust’s deputy medical director, told HSJ that the reconfiguration was needed to keep a “critical mass” of highly specialised clinical staff in the same location.

“There’s lot of evidence in various specialties that results in improved outcomes for the patient,” he said.

Professor Cooke said longer journey times for some people would be “massively outweighed” by the clinical benefits, but the trust was also exploring the idea of providing transport for patients between its sites to reduce the inconvenience.

He admitted the plans would mean an increase in patients being moved between hospitals. For example elderly patients who no longer need to be near their surgical teams but who are not yet ready for discharge could be moved to their local hospital to continue their recovery.

The consultation will run to 16 January 2014. Professor Cooke said the feedback from the process would probably be taken to the trust board in March and only then would the timetable for the implementation of the plans be set.