STRUCTURE: University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay has warned it may seek judicial review of a decision to transfer its inpatient vascular services to a neighbouring trust.

NHS Lancashire this week announced that the foundation trust’s appeal against a proposed reconfiguration of vascular services across Lancashire and Cumbria had not been upheld, and commissioners would press ahead with plans to create a new “vascular network” across the region.

The plans would see all complex vascular surgery for Lancashire and Cumbria concentrated on three sites: North Cumbria University Hospital Trust’s Cumberland Infirmary, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals FT’s Royal Preston Hospital, and East Lancashire Hospital Trust’s Royal Blackburn Hospital.

UHMB chairman Sir David Henshaw said the trust was “extremely disappointed” with the outcome of its appeal.

“The trust board will ensure that it works with commissioners for the benefits of patients, however it is now considering its legal position in respect of this and the possible grounds for a judicial review of the decision which we believe is fundamentally flawed,” he said.

“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.”

The trust has previously warned that losing inpatient vascular services could have a knock-on effect on other specialties it offers, undermine its ability to recruit motivated and ambitious staff, and cut its income by around £1.3m a year.

Local MPs have been particularly concerned about the distances North Lancashire and South Cumbria patients would have to travel under the reconfiguration. Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, has argued that travel times to the proposed vascular centres from parts of South Cumbria would be more than 90 minutes, constituting “a real threat to patient safety”.

However, commissioners counter that concentrating complex work on fewer sites will bring improved and more consistent outcomes for patients. Hugh Reeve, a south Cumbria GP and chair of Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, said he was confident the plans would be “extremely beneficial to patients in Cumbria”.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt this week agreed to arrange a ministerial meeting for Mr Farron and other local MPs and hospital consultants to voice their concerns. “We are very keen to ensure that all reconfigurations of services have strong local, clinical support,” Mr Hunt told the House of Commons. “There is always a trade-off between access, which I recognise is extremely important in a rural constituency such as the hon. Gentleman’s, and the centralisation of services, which sometimes leads to better clinical outcomes.”

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