When the loss of vital children’s services from Bedford Hospital was announced in July, I warned in this column that NHS Commissioners must not use this crisis as an opportunity to pursue an ongoing agenda of reducing services at our local hospital.
Sadly, it has become clear that this is exactly what they are doing.
The devastating current service cuts were due to the withdrawal of junior doctors over the issue of their supervision. Local families dealing with the impact will have expected the NHS to be working to remedy the problem.
Instead, the Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (BCCG) is throwing the very existence of the services locally into question and is reviewing which are to be provided for children.
The ongoing task for the NHS should be to improve patient care and not be to seek to take services away altogether. Yet the decision-makers threaten to use the narrow but important issue of management failures over supervision as a reason to remove local hospital services for children permanently.
Reducing services such as paediatrics at hospitals like Bedford was the aim of the discredited former ‘Healthier Together’ programme, which targeted small general hospitals for severe downgrading. The BCCG has previously committed itself to taking this programme forward.
We cannot let this happen as a community. The council’s health scrutiny committee has resolved that the BCCG’s review of paediatric services is so substantial in its implications for local services that a public consultation must take place, which will be over the winter.
I am calling on everyone who cares about the future of local children’s health services and Bedford Hospital as a whole to make your voice heard loud and very clear.