‘Plans have all fallen flat’

b12-1132 Labour councillor Louise King speaks out about regional changes to the health service. ENGPNL00120120910160325
b12-1132 Labour councillor Louise King speaks out about regional changes to the health service. ENGPNL00120120910160325

A £4.5million scheme to twin the fates of Bedford and Milton Keynes hospitals may be scrapped altogether, following last week’s public climbdown by health bosses.

Last week the Bedford and Milton Keynes Healthcare Review team announced plans to close Bedford’s maternity unit – only to backtrack just days later.

Now it is being predicted that the entire project may prove to be a dead end, despite costing £4.5million over the last two-and-a-half years.

Councillor Louise King, protfolio holder for public health at Bedford Borough Council, said: “I think it’s clear now – we’ve had the public climbdown last week, and quite simply all the work that’s been done up to now isn’t alligned with how NHS England is thinking.

“The big question now is how anybody managed to waste so much money on something that’s fallen flat.”

She added: “This whole review was only ever going to deliver the wrong answers – because it only ever asked the wrong questions.

“It was making incorrect assumptions about patient flow, about local transport networks, and about where people look to health.

“Now we’ve seen the results of spending £4.5million on something that was always a non-starter.”

The Bedford and Milton Keynes Healthcare Review is one of a succession of proposed shake-ups of the town’s healthcare, all of which have involved teaming the hospital with one or more other hospital trusts.

The first project was Healthier Together, which wanted to twin Bedford with four other hospitals across three counties –Bedford, Kettering, Luton & Dunstable, Milton Keynes and Northampton.

That scheme was meant to be completed by 2015. But instead it was shelved in 2013 – after costing £2.2million.

At the same time there was a plan to merge Bedford and Milton Keynes hospitals into a single hospital trust. That plan was also quietly scrapped – but a steady stream of senior staff have moved from Bedford to Milton Keynes (see right).

Another new report – the Sustainability and Transformation Plan –was launched by the government this year, while Bedford Borough Cou ncil is running its own study of local health services.