Health chiefs are today under fire over plans to put Bispham Hospital up for sale as they look to balance the books amid huge budget cuts.
From April, rehabilitation care at Bispham and Rossall is to be brought ‘in-house’ by the trust that runs Blackpool Victoria Hospital, The Gazette can reveal.
Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust wants to end its contract with Spiral Health, the social enterprise that has provided the service for the last four years, in a move that has left some baffled.
Tracey Bush, chief executive of Spiral Health, said she was ‘devastated’ by the decision – and questioned the logic behind it.
Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard accused the Trust of making an ‘ideological’ decision and said he has demanded an urgent meeting with out-going chief executive Gary Doherty, due to take place today.
“To say I’m incandescent is putting it mildly,” he added.
To say I’m incandescent is putting it mildlyMP Paul Maynard
“It will affect the quality of care patients across the Fylde coast receive.
“The provision will be of lesser quality and higher cost per patient.”
Spiral Health provides intermediate care on the Fylde coast, offering short-term support to patients as they recover from a hospital stay.
It confirmed it is looking into the possibility of buying Bispham Hospital, the home of its ‘flagship’ 40-bed nurse-led therapy unit.
Ms Bush said: “For us at Spiral Health this has been both extremely unexpected and very disappointing.
“Blackpool Teaching Hospital hasn’t given us any clear reasoning – all we can focus on is what we know we’ve achieved over the past four years.
“To date we’ve saved the public purse £2.7m and for every pound invested in Spiral Health there has been a return of investment of £3.63 within the local community.”
Mr Maynard said the initial decision by the Trust to enlist the services of Spiral Health was ‘brave and pioneering’.
He added: “It has been a success story – it delivered high quality services at a reduced cost to the taxpayer.”
But David Owen, chairman of the 38 Degrees Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Support Group, said: “We are much happier when the health service is directly responsible for the care it gives.
“We are against any privatisation of the health service.”
However, he said patient care remains the top priority and said the group had been ‘extremely impressed’ by the work Spiral Health has done.
It is understood staff’s jobs are protected under EU law, which means there should be no redundancies as a result of the Trust’s decision.
Care at the hospitals in Rossall and Bispham will continue as normal until April, when intermediate care will be provided at the Vic and Blackpool Council’s assessment and rehabilitation centre (ARC) on Clifton Avenue.
Spiral’s work in Preston will be unaffected.
The Gazette reported in October that the Trust was facing an £11m deficit this year, having had its budget slashed by £20m.
But Ms Bush told The Gazette: “Blackpool Teaching Hospitals have put the Bispham site up for sale.
“We’re currently talking to the clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), who look after health provision in the region, to discuss alternative service provision and the possibility of Spiral Health buying the Bispham site with a partner.”
Bosses at both NHS Blackpool and NHS Fylde and Wyre CCGs said they were aware of the plans.
In a joint statement a spokesman added: “The CCGs have been given assurances that a high quality of service will continue to be provided during the transitional period.”
A spokesman for Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “The local health economy launched a consultation into the provision of older people’s rehabilitation services in 2012 that looked at implementing new models of care across the Fylde coast.
“The local health and social care community is now working together to implement new models of care for rehabilitation services and Bispham Hospital is now no longer required.
“Spiral Health were involved in the consultation and were fully aware of the new models of care being developed.
“They were informed in September 2015 that their contracts would come to an end at the end of March 2016.
“We can assure patients that they will still receive the same high quality rehabilitation services in the most appropriate setting.’’