Bedford Hospital is set to lose its maternity department and will become a satellite of Milton Keynes.
In a devastating blow to campaigners, the Bedford and Milton Keynes Healthcare Review has recommended that hospital services are centred in Milton Keynes, while a range of services in Bedford are either downgraded or shut.
Mayor of Bedford Dave Hodgson called the move “utterly unacceptable”.
He said: “As feared, the review has set its sights on a severe downgrade of Bedford Hospital.
“The removal of all births from Bedford Hospital is an utterly unacceptable proposal for a fast-growing local population.
“Forcing expectant mothers from Bedford and surrounding towns and villages to travel for up to an hour to Milton Keynes, away from their home, their family and support network is plain wrong.
“Residents in Bedford Borough will not accept this, and the evidence we have published this week shows that they should not have to. That’s why we will keep up the pressure on this review to change course from these flawed, damaging proposals for Bedford Hospital and the communities it serves.”
The healthcare review began in 2014, and bosses have always publicly maintained that there was no pre-determined plan to make Milton Keynes the main hospital and Bedford the satellite.
The scheme originally covered 36 options, including major downgrades of A&E at both hospitals. Bedford will keep some antenatal and prenatal services, as well as support for home births.
But in papers seen by the Times & Citizen, healthcare chiefs have admitted that any loss of maternity services would be a “major concern” to patients in both towns.
The same paper adds: “There is some support for splitting services so that one hospital focuses on emergency care and the other on planned care.
“However, especially for emergency care and maternity, this is outweighed by significant concerns over the risk of increased travel times and ease of parking for patients and families if not going by ambulance, especially for minority groups.”
Bosses running the review claim that the move is necessary to preserve services in the future.
Matthew Tait, accountable officer for Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group which oversees healthcare in Beds, said: “This paper brings together the positive working that has been undertaken with our healthcare partners and representatives from our key stakeholder groups over recent months.
“Based on our evaluation, there is one model which scores most strongly in terms of clinical quality and sustainability and also scored well in terms of access to care.
“This provides us with a strong basis on which both Bedford and Milton Keynes CCGs are agreed.”