Patients 'unlikely to notice any difference' after Bedford and L&D Hospital merger

Patients are unlikely to have noticed any difference in their treatment following the merger of two Bedfordshire hospitals, a meeting heard.

By Euan Duncan
Thursday, 20th August 2020, 12:35 pm
Updated Thursday, 20th August 2020, 12:38 pm
Luton & Dunstable Hospital
Luton & Dunstable Hospital

Bedford Hospital and the Luton and Dunstable officially joined forces on April 1 when attention was focused on tackling the pandemic.

Funding of almost £100m to redevelop the Luton and Dunstable site proved the catalyst for the merger into the Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

“The aim of the merger was to bring out the best in both hospitals,” the trust’s deputy chief executive Cathy Jones told Luton Borough Council’s scrutiny health and social care review group.

“There has been a strong emphasis in maintaining the local brand of Luton and Dunstable University Hospital,” she said.

“We’ve built on the positive learning of dealing with Covid-19 while completing the merger.

“It allowed us to focus on what was important for both hospitals, and gave it a unity of purpose with the immediate presentation of patients with the virus.

“It also had an unintended impact around very quickly rolling out technology, bringing teams together remotely.

“We realise the benefits of merger for our teams and in releasing time back into front line patient care, which is a very important outcome for us.”

New clinical and operational management structures are in place across the two sites to ensure “high quality services continue to be delivered”, she added.

“On the clinical integration programme, we were not going into this with a detailed written plan about how these services might come together across the two sites.

“We’ve very much left that for the clinical teams to agree and deliver.

“Work has understandably slowed on that, with clinical time being focused on dealing with the pandemic.

“Clinical leadership is absolutely at the heart of the merger.”

Conservative Icknield councillor Jeff Petts asked: “What impact is this having on patients and how are they feeling about it? Have you got any feedback?”

The deputy chief executive replied: “We’ve been very careful that our patients shouldn’t see any impact, certainly in these early days.

“We haven’t made any changes that should be visible to patients.

“I can’t say we’ve had feedback from patients, given that we couldn’t do the publicity planned around the merger date.”

Councillor Petts recalled the chief executive David Carter saying patients might attend the Luton and Dunstable Hospital and be transferred to Bedford for treatment.

She explained: “That’s not happening at the moment.

“We’ve said it’s really important we keep outpatient and high volume services, and diagnostics local to patients.

“As we gradually bring our clinical teams together to look at their strategy for the next five to ten years, we’ve asked that to be one of the guiding principles.

“It’s true we want to give the clinical teams the chance to identify if there would be benefit from shifting some elements of the service from one site to the other.

“We want the clinical teams to design and lead that change, as well as understand the benefits, and clearly we would go through the usual processes of scrutiny.”

Labour South councillor David Agbley, who chairs the review group, asked for an update in six months.