A HOSPITAL trust boss has hit out at a campaign against the moving of orthopaedic surgeries to a new £44 million centre at Colchester Hospital.

Nick Hulme, chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, said “confusing” talk of moving orthopaedic services from Ipswich to Colchester had been “unhelpful” and “absolutely wrong”.

A petition to save orthopaedic surgery at Ipswich Hospital has attracted more than 4,000 signatures.

Once complete in 2024, it is expected patients from Colchester, Tendring, Ipswich and east Suffolk will visit the new elective care centre at Colchester Hospital for orthopaedic operations such as hip replacements.

Mr Hulme told the board of North Essex and East Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, which runs both hospitals, that the campaign had proven “unhelpful”.

He said: “We didn’t know at the time, but that change has caused anxiety and worry amongst our patients, mainly from a position of not really understanding.

“There’s a lot of media at the moment around a petition signed by several thousand people in Ipswich and Suffolk.

“It misinforms the public by talking about orthopaedic services being removed from Ipswich Hospital.

“That is totally and absolutely wrong.

“It is a tiny proportion of our overall orthopaedic activity.

“But I think it is incumbent upon us to be absolutely clear with the public, with our patients, with our staff, with our communities, about the rationale and the reason for change.”

He added: “As I’ve said all along there are three tests, until the beginning of March, that I always set in terms of clinical reconfiguration.

“Are the outcomes better, does the access improve, or are we forced to make change because of workforce changes?

“I have now added a fourth one and that is will this support the potential for a second, third, fourth, fifth spike of Covid-19 going forward?

“The proposal we’re putting towards the elective care centre is absolutely meeting those four tests.

“I think the confusion caused by others in terms of what we’re attempting to do here has been unhelpful, it’s been a distraction, but it is incumbent upon us to make sure our messages are clear.”

A final decision on the centre is due to be made on July 14 by members of Clinical Commissioning Groups for Essex and Suffolk.