CHESHIRE East Council will write to the Government urging it to look into plans to stop providing some specialist dental services at Macclesfield Hospital.

East Cheshire NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, gave six months’ notice on its contract to run specialist oral surgery and orthodontics last autumn – suggesting staffing issues had caused long delays for patients, of which many are children needing repeat appointments.

CEC’s health and adult social care overview and scrutiny committee (OSC) was made aware of the move last month – and at a meeting on Thursday members were angry over a lack of discussion with the trust about the matter, and the fact that the public had not been consulted on the move.

Dental nurse Nicola Bateson, one of three employees who were served redundancy notice by the trust following the decision, told the OSC that moving appointments across the county would not be ideal for patients and their families.

She said: “It is extra time off school, it is time off for working parents – what parent has a job that allows them to take their child out for a half-day round trip to these appointments for eight to 10 weeks?

“What about patients that rely on public transport? And the elderly patients who we would not be comfortable with travelling such distances when the service was provided locally?”

Moira Moss, a nurse who had worked in the department for 35 years, told councillors she was disappointed with the way staff had been treated over the move.

She said: “All I want is for [the trust] to be honest and open about it – to give us that respect. We have worked for this trust all these years and I don’t think we have had that.”

Macclesfield Hospital stopped providing orthodontic services on Wednesday, and it is due to stop providing specialist oral surgery on April 17.

Knutsford Guardian:

A report presented to the OSC said that 69 patients from east Cheshire have been affected by the move.

Twenty-six of those patients will now receive treatment in Chester, while five will be treated in Warrington, but a further 38 patients were yet to have new appointments confirmed.

Tom Knight is head of primary care commissioning for Cheshire and Merseyside at NHS England – the organisation which had given East Cheshire NHS Trust the contract to run the services.

He told members that NHS England will commission a different service to replace the old one – and promised a full consultation would take place on that new service.

Mr Knight added: “The trust served notice to us – we did not decommission the service. We had no plans to decommission the service at this time.

“As far as we were concerned the service was staying at Macclesfield Hospital providing services for the residents of east Cheshire.

“Because the trust served notice to us we just did not have the time [for consultation]. I can understand why members are angry but the focus was on trying to deal with a difficult situation.”

Cllr Stewart Gardiner, chairman of the OSC, told members he was offered a phone call with John Wilbraham, chief executive of East Cheshire NHS Trust, but it clashed with CEC’s full council meeting.

The Conservative member for Knutsford added he had not had any further contact from Mr Wilbraham or the trust before Thursday’s meeting.

Cllr Laura Jeuda, Labour member for Macclesfield South, compared the situation to the planned closure of Macclesfield’s Millbrook Unit – which led to lengthy public consultation before a new mental health service was agreed.

She said: “That had to go to wider consultation because people faced having to travel to Chester. This is the same situation, it is absolutely outrageous that you did not consult.

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“[Mr Wilbraham] should be here to let us know what is happening. I think they have treated this committee with absolute contempt.”

Cllr George Hayes, Conservative member for Congleton West, added that he believed it was ‘too little too late’ for NHS England to launch public consultation on the new service after Macclesfield Hospital had already stopped providing the current one.

OSC members unanimously agreed to write to Matt Hancock MP, secretary of state for health and social care, urging him to look into the matter due to a lack of public consultation.

At the trust’s public board meeting on Thursday afternoon, Mr Wilbraham confirmed the trust could not send a representative to the OSC meeting because it clashed with a private board meeting.

A spokesman at East Cheshire NHS Trust said: “The orthodontic service currently provided by East Cheshire NHS Trust will close in April 2019 due to significant workforce challenges.

“The service is provided by a very small team and as such, is highly vulnerable to staffing issues and fluctuations in demand. On occasion and despite the best efforts of the service’s dedicated staff, this has regrettably led to long waits for some patients.

“Because of this the trust felt that transferring the service to a larger provider would be in the best interests of patients as it would be less vulnerable to staffing challenges and better able to cope with periods of high demand.

“A contract notice period was provided. The trust is currently working with the service’s commissioners, NHS England, to hand over the care and treatment of current patients smoothly and safely to alternative NHS providers.

“The trust is writing to all those affected to explain this and provide contact details for any concerns or queries.

“We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused and reassure patients that they will continue to receive a high standard of care from their new service.

“Three members of staff are directly affected by the changes and the trust has followed relevant policies and processes to ensure staff are well supported.”