A SHAKE-UP of surgery services provided at Winchester hospital could be tested before the public finishes having their say – and it is claimed morale among hospital staff has been “plummeting” in recent months.

The proposed transformation of orthopaedics tabled by Hampshire Hospitals Foundation Trust (HHFT), which manages Royal Hampshire County Hospital (RHCH), would see inpatient trauma operations no longer take place in Winchester.

As previously reported, hospital bosses denied the move would happen without a consultation.

However, they are keen to test the plans before a public engagement process reaches its conclusion.

Trust chiefs now say a meeting of Hampshire County Council’s health and adult social care select committee on Monday (September 16) will inform the schedule for any change of service.

A timeline within a committee report lists a formal consultation running from November to early February, however, it later adds that the trust “may want to be testing some of these ideas early in order to provide better care this winter”.

Members of the select committee will be asked if they would be supportive of this approach or if it would be preferred to wait until the public engagement process is complete.

Officials at the Royal College of Nursing, the world’s largest nursing union, said they understood a consultation of staff had been put on hold for the time being while the trust complete more work on it.

Julie Maskery, chief operating officer at HHFT, said there are a number of reasons why they are planning the changes.

“We have held numerous discussions with our key partners and within the trust to develop a broad overview of what the clinical changes could look like, as well as the implications of these changes,” said Ms Maskery.

“We have actively encouraged our staff and partners to share their ideas and concerns. This engagement will continue over the coming months and will be extended to include a wider range of stakeholders, patients, carers and the public to help us shape the service.

“The timeline for any change to the service will be influenced by the essential and valued views of HASC members at their meeting on September 16.”

The trust says it is hoping to create a “centre of excellence” for elective care at Winchester hospital, with as many joint surgery procedures as possible taking place at the facility.

The report to Monday’s committee says: “Patients requiring inpatient procedures or treatments relating to trauma or non-elective orthopaedic conditions usually admitted to Winchester hospital would be re-directed to the nearest acute hospital that has the right specialist consultant capability and capacity to meet the needs of these patients.”

It is believed the change would see many residents having to travel to Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital (BNHH) should they require emergency surgery on broken bones.

The report says the next two months are “critical in terms of developing our understand of the impact of proposed changes, engaging with patients and stakeholders and developing proposals”.

HHFT plans to bring a “more detailed operational plan” to the committee in November.

A letter sent to the Chronicle professing to be from a former nurse at RHCH said the planned removal of the trauma service had led to “moral levels plummeting” and resignations.

Meanwhile, staff at Winchester hospital reportedly showed “signs of unsettlement” to the changes to where surgeries are carried out as early as July according to a meeting of senior hospital officials.

Draft notes of the trauma and orthopaedic reconfiguration meeting, seen by the Chronicle, highlight initial concerns had been raised.

The notes from the meeting held on July 30 said: “Staffing consultation had commenced; HN (divisional nursing director) not aware of any formal feedback from staff groups on the BNHH site but there is some evidence that staff are beginning to show signs of unsettlement at RHCH.”