An MP has urged the health care review body to consider ‘all the alternatives’, including forging stronger links with Addenbrooke’s, before deciding the fate of Bedford Hospital.
Bedford and Kempston MP Richard Fuller said since the review process began, the pressure to centralise NHS services has been reduced, with a new focus on maintaining some services at district hospitals.
He said: “The head of the NHS is relooking at the balance between centralisation of services and the role of district hospitals.
“While it is better to have specialist centres for certain conditions, such as heart attacks, A&E, maternity, paediatric and geriatric services – the day to day, complex care – need to remain in district.”
He also questioned the current position of linking the future of Bedford Hospital with Milton Keynes. He said: “Since the review started the quality of care and the finances at Bedford Hospital have continued to improve. Milton Keynes has gone in the other direction, and the perspective of that partnership has changed.
“Bedford Hospital has strong links with Addenbrooke’s and I think they should look at ways to build on these.”
The healthcare review was set up at the beginning of this year to help NHS commissioners in Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes tackle the challenges of a growing and ageing population. It is looking at the complete range of health care, from GPs and clinics, to hospital services.
A Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group spokeswoman said Bedford Hospital A&E currently cannot treat certain emergencies, including heart attack and out of hours stroke or serious injury. She said: “In many emergency situations, patients would not be taken to Bedford A&E.
“The BCCG does not want to shut Bedford A&E, but nothing has yet been decided.”
Bedford Hospital chief executive Stephen Conroy sits on the team reviewing the 14 options put forward. He said: “Our community has access to high quality and effective care at Bedford Hospital and we believe services should be provided as locally as possible; this includes a wide range of accident and emergency and surgical services.
“We know services must change if we are to deliver healthcare which is safe and sustainable in the long term and that which meet the needs of our growing and ageing population.
“Our vision is to meet this challenge by continuing to work with other hospitals to develop networks, as we already do for vascular services, where we are the vascular centre for the county and other neighbouring hospitals. There are also opportunities to work closer with GP and community services to provide more integrated and specialist care in our local community.
“No decisions about Bedford Hospital, or indeed other healthcare services, have yet been made. We will continue to engage fully in this review process and will work to ensure that views of the Trust and our clinical experts are listened to.”
General workers union GMB has shown its support for Bedford Hospital by planning to oppose any downgrading when its “People’s March for the NHS” when it reaches Bedfordshire between September 2 and 4.