COUNCILLORS are again calling on the Government to take another look into the way hospital bosses axed orthodontics and oral surgery services in east Cheshire.

East Cheshire NHS Trust, which runs Macclesfield Hospital, gave six months’ notice on its contract to run the services last October – but Cheshire East Council’s health and adult social care overview and scrutiny committee was only made aware of the move last month.

John Wilbraham, chief executive of East Cheshire NHS Trust, offered the committee a ‘personal and unreserved apology’ for not making it aware of the situation when the trust gave its notice on the service to NHS England last October.

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He told members last Thursday that the services had just one consultant, which meant the hospital was unable to provide treatment at times when the consultant was on leave, and that the trust believes it is right for another provider with a bigger workforce to run the service.

“The trust is one of the smallest in the country and we have a number of small-scale services we class as fragile,” Mr Wilbraham said.

“That’s not to say the quality is poor. The quality is good, the staff that provide the service are very dedicated and committed, and they are excellent members of staff.

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“The service as you can see are relatively small in scale, and our challenge as a provider is to ensure that we can provide those services in a robust fashion.”

Mr Wilbraham told the committee that Macclesfield’s orthodontics service would see two new patients and 14 returning patients a week, with two urgent slots and two slots for broken braces each week.

Meanwhile, the oral surgery department ran five day-case procedures a week, nine appointments for new outpatients and six appointments for returning patients.

Between 200 and 300 patients have been transferred to other providers as close as possible to their home address, while a paediatrician from North Staffordshire has provided some services at Macclesfield, and the private sector has taken some NHS patients.

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Mr Wilbraham also moved to reassure councillors that Macclesfield Hospital could be used to host future orthodontics and oral surgery services run by another partner – in the same way it is set to provide space for The Christie to run specialist cancer treatment.

He added: “Wherever possible we would want to provide a local service.

“If that means that my organisation is a landlord – so services can be provided by another organisation and our patients do not have to travel – we would be happy to do that.”

Cllr Arthur Moran, independent, had proposed to refer the matter to Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, at the last meeting.

He said: “Decisions, whether they were right or wrong, have already been made – and therefore this committee was playing catch-up really.”

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The committee was advised that since that decision was taken, an independent reconfiguration panel – which offers advice to councils considering referrals to Government – had looked at the Macclesfield situation.

Joel Hammond-Grant, scrutiny officer at CEC, told the committee that the panel believed CEC should be ‘more pragmatic’ by focusing on working with the NHS on its future plans.

He added: “The Secretary of State does not have the power to order a provider to reinstitute a service that they have served notice on.”

But the committee agreed to press on with the referral to Government, with Cllr Chris Green, Conservative, suggesting it is a ‘point of principal’.

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“We are being advised that because of tight timescales we need to be pragmatic,” he said.

“’Tight timescales’ can be used almost at any stage with any scrutiny committee of this council, by outside bodies, and we would be presented with fait accompli. I think that is the danger here.”

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