Mayor’s anger as Bedford health review put on ‘fast track’

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The controversial programme reviewing local healthcare services in Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes has been placed on a ‘fast track’, despite Mayor Dave Hodgson’s refusal to give the council’s approval as a supposed partner.

The Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) approached the council on March 23 to ask for approval for the programme to be fast-tracked, and insisted on a decision by 2pm the following day.

At a meeting Mayor Dave explained to the STP representative that while the council supports the principles of joint working and is keen to develop closer integration between health and social care services, it cannot support the fast-tracking of the STP to move to a formal status.

This is due to the STP’s current consultation, which proposes downgrading each of A&E, maternity and paediatrics services in at least one of Bedford, Milton Keynes and Luton and Dunstable hospitals.

The continued sidelining of local councils from the process, despite the supposed status as full partners, and the importance of the integration of health and social care services.

The incredibly short timescale for a decision and the lack of detail provided on the proposal, which amounted to two sides of A4 paper.

Despite this an announcement later confirmed that the STP ploughed on with its bid regardless, and it has been approved as one of just a handful of STPs to go forward on this fast-track to ACS status.

Mayor Dave Hodgson said: “This sums up the entire STP process to date.

“As a council we are supposedly a central partner, yet repeatedly we are fobbed off, ignored or worse.

“We want to see progress integrating health and social care and to achieve real sustainability for local services.

“But we clearly cannot endorse the fast-tracking of a process which, for example, currently threatens the future of Bedford Hospital as we know it.

“They’ve ploughed on regardless in the face of our opposition.

“The STP is currently in no position to be fast-tracked to this more formal status, and I will keep pressing for it to start genuinely working in partnership and to tackle the real issues facing local health and care services.”