Hospital chiefs must answer the challenge, says Bedford and Kempston MP Richard Fuller

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Will the healthcare review by the local GP led commissioning groups of Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes, costing £3 million, come up with ideas that we can use?

Early indications are that useful changes have been identified in how local GP practices can be made more effective. On their own, these proposals should improve access to GPs and to speed up simple procedures such as blood tests. These are good ideas from the review and, I believe, will be supported strongly during the upcoming consultation.

The headlines, of course, have not focused on GP services, but on the proposals about accident and emergency services at the two hospitals – Bedford and Milton Keynes. Laying out all potential options part way through a review, although exemplary disclosure, naturally raises concerns about some of the more extreme ideas. The GP-led group erred on the side of full openness and, on balance, I think they were right.

However, unlike with GP services, there has been so much change over the last year at our local hospital that I no longer believe that an answer can be found in a tie-up for Bedford Hospital with Milton Keynes Hospital. There is a new confidence at Bedford Hospital and it is time for them to show leadership in answering the challenge of commissioners about how best to provide services locally in Bedford.

There is no need for the knee-jerk response that everything should stay exactly as it is now and scaring people with talk of the closure of our hospital – which is not in any plan – does not help anyone.

If more lives can be saved by looking at safe, modern, sustainable alternatives, then we should look at these. Equally, we should recognise that the review is not ‘the only show in town’.

Personally, I think the development of a broad, clinical partnership with Addenbrooke’s Hospital could be the right answer for Bedford Hospital. Addenbrooke’s is a trusted, high quality teaching hospital than can help recruitment of doctors to Bedford and provide quality care for those, thankfully few, cases each year of life or death injury.

Politicians can have opinions and can give voice to local opinion, but leadership should best come from the clinical specialists themselves. So, Bedford Hospital, what is your answer?