A&E services are set for a major downgrade at either Bedford or Milton Keynes Hospital.
Health care across the two areas is currently subject to a joint £3.2million review to plot a major overhaul.
The review has now cut the options down to 14 possible choices, and all the scenarios rule out the possibility of both hospitals remaining ‘major emergency centres’, which provide 24/7 consultant-delivered A&E, with emergency surgery, acute medicine and inpatient paediatrics.
Jayne Beard, chairman of the Bedford Hospitals Charity, said: “I am absolutely devastated at the news that this is possible.
“Bedford Hospital, including the A&E team, provides an excellent service, and Bedford is a growing town with an ageing population. The hospital is at the heart of the town, accessible to all people, whereas we all know how long it can take to drive from town to Milton Keynes.”
The healthcare review is being led by Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), the organisations which oversee healthcare in their areas.
Originally their proposals covered 36 possible scenarios for which services would be provided at each centre.
These have now been reduced to just 14 options, with the choice of having ‘major emergency centres’ at both Milton Keynes and Bedford ruled out because “sustaining emergency surgery on both sites is not sustainable in the long-term”.
The current £3.2million review of healthcare services is the successor to a previous review called Healthier Together. That was scrapped 18 months ago, after looking at how to merge services between Bedford, Milton Keynes, Kettering, Northampton, and Luton & Dunstable.
Jayne added: “We appreciate that there are financial pressures on the NHS.
“But we don’t feel that cuts to A&E are the answer; that’s not what people want.”
Dr Nicola Smith, GP and chairwoman of Milton Keynes CCG, said: “The Healthcare Review is working with local clinicians and undertaking extensive modelling of patient flows and travel times to ensure we provide the right care in the right place, by those with the right skills first time and that the future demands of the populations of Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes are met.”