BEDFORD HOSPITAL MERGER: Mayor’s challenge to health bosses - “there can be no backtracking”

Health bosses have been challenged to offer full assurances that key services will remain in Bedford in the long-term, following this week’s merger announcement.

While Bedford Hospital have said that maternity, paediatrics and A&E will all remain at both sites, Mayor of Bedford Dave Hodgson said that this needed to be written in stone – and would have to be a full service on all three counts.

He told the Times & Citizen: “This seems to be good news – now we have to hold them to account. There can be no backtracking.

“I’ll take them at face value, when they say that this will be the case, and I want to believe them. But they have to deliver.

“We need a full A&E, that’s open 24/7. We need a maternity unit led by consultants, not be midwives. And we cannot accept a downgraded paediatrics unit.”

Mr Hodgson said he was happy to concede that there were areas that savings could be made – “I haven’t spoken to anyone who wouldn’t agree with that,” – but he had more pressing concerns about what the merger might mean for closing units.

He said: “Previously we never had a commitment to keep these key services open. Now we do and that’s a huge positive.

“I am told that if the new hospital wants to close a service in the future then nothing changes, they still have to go through the same process of public consultation. That’s also good news, especially for key services like maternity, paediatrics and A&E.

“But if there is a service which needs a certain number of staff then they might choose to move those staff to Luton and close the service at Bedford because it is no longer considered safe. It is much easier to close a service if it is not safe.”

Hospital boss Stephen Conroy also met with the Times & Citizen this week and was optimistic about how the set-up could work.

He pointed to current joint services such as neonatal intensive care, vascular surgery and stroke services.

“The detail will come when we have the full business case,” he said.

“But right now we have two stable organisations, and the merger will mean we have greater critical mas which means t is good for staffing levels, procurement, and the future of the hospitals.

“Clinically we start from a position of strength. Both Luton and Bedford provide really good clinical service, but with this we’ll be able to address challenges like seven-day working.”

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