The future of Bedford Hospital is set to be the “most important issue” for everyone who lives in the region in 2016.
The warning comes from the chairman of the committee set up to check the review into Bedford and Milton Keynes hospitals.
Bedford Borough Councillor John Mingay said the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee is becoming increasingly frustrated at the review, which seeks to provide options on how the two hospitals will look in the future.
After a meeting to be updated on the review’s “communications and engagement strategy” he said: “I am very concerned about the situation at this time, especially about the future of Bedford Hospital and what role it will play in the NHS in the future.
“This is the most important issue of 2016 for people in this area. After all, what is more important than the health of yourself, your family and your neighbours?”
The Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes Healthcare Review, run by the Clinical Commissioning Groups with NHS England, Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority, was launched in January 2014 and has so far cost about £7.5 million.
While the review has consistently failed to meet its own deadlines to publish options for the future of the hospital, it is likely there should be an announcement early next year.
Cllr Mingay said: “There was a representative from NHS England at the meeting who has promised they are going to give us options, in January of next year, if there are any, so we should get something.”
But Cllr Mingay remains concerned about Bedford Hospital as previous talk of building stronger links with hospitals other than Milton Keynes was not mentioned at the meeting.
He said: “There was no mention of Addenbrookes Hospital but they kept mentioning Milton Keynes.”
He added: “We have waited so long now, we are getting discouraged, so is the hospital, the people who work at the hospital and the tax payers.
It is very unsatisfactory.”
A review spokesman said: “Over the past few months, the partners to the Healthcare Review been carrying out detailed analysis and refinement of possible future options for the provision of hospital services in Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes.
“A joint Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes programme team has now been established to take this work forward across both regions. It is expected that the analysis of options will be completed early next year, following which healthcare commissioners in Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes will be gathering views from patients, members of the public, local clinicians and other key stakeholders to feed in to the review prior to a full public consultation in Summer 2016, with a decision expected to be made by the end of 2016.
“A timeline through to consultation has been developed and is being shared with the Oversight (sic) and Scrutiny committees in Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes before it is published by Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes CCGs in early December.”
He added: “The costs associated with progressing the Healthcare Review through to consultation and beyond are currently being finalised and will be kept to a minimum.”