Fury as health care review “drags on”

Bedford Hospital south wing accident and emergency.
Bedford Hospital south wing accident and emergency.

The threat of Government intervention is hanging over Bedfordshire’s multi-million pound health review after it shows no sign of reaching any conclusion.

Councillors overseeing the strategic health review of NHS services across Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes are prepared to go to the Health Secretary if no definite plans have been drawn up by November.

Cllr Mingay.

Cllr Mingay.

The review is being carried out by the Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes clinical commissioning groups, with NHS England, Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority.

A Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire council cross-party Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (JHOSC), chaired by Cllr John Mingay, gave its ultimatum after meeting the groups on Monday.

Cllr Mingay said: “The committee has become so annoyed with the review. It has been dragging on since 2011. First there was the £2.2million Healthier Together review. And now, two-and-a-half years later we are not getting any answers.

“The BCCG has failed to meet every deadline throughout the review. The public consultation was supposed to be started by now.

“It just goes on and on.”

The strategic health review was launched in January 2014. Part of it has been to outline changes to Bedford and Milton Keynes Hospitals.

However, despite promises in January this year there would be a firm plan for Bedford Hospital by May, JHOSC was told more work is needed.

Cllr Mingay said: “We are getting angry with the lack of answers. We are responsible to residents, and staff at the hospital.

“We want definite suggestions to go forward by November, or the committee will go to the Secretary of State as we cannot do our job of scrutinising the review for residents.”

Previously, the review has outlined two options for the hospitals – to have an integrated care centre with an emergency centre at Bedford Hospital and a major emergency centre at Milton Keynes or vice versa. Now it appears there is a third option on the table.

Cllr Mingay said: “The third option sketched out certain things, such as taking a look at an alternative to joining up with Milton Keynes, but we only have the briefest idea.

“I think the staff at Bedford Hospital have done a fantastic job turning it around, and 
we don’t want to see that wasted.”

A BCCG spokesman said the review leaders will “need to undertake further work to ensure that the models considered will fully address the current and future challenges across both healthcare systems, while providing the best quality healthcare services for the people of Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes”.