Healthcare bosses have performed another U-turn on their series of multi-million pound reviews, the T&C can reveal.
Until this week three separate reviews of health services were running in Bedford – one looking at merging services in Bedford and Milton Keynes, another looking at Bedford, Milton Keynes and Luton, and a third looking solely at Bedford.
But health chiefs have now decided to merge the first of the two reviews.
Councillor Louise Jackson, portfolio holder for public health at Borough Hall, said: “It’s no big surprise that healthcare bosses have abandoned a two-hospital solution covering Bedford and Milton Keynes when a bigger review was under way and another, larger hospital in the mix.
“I’m a little puzzled that it has taken so long to conclude that the review did not fit with this new plan, but it’s time now to move forward.”
The MK and Bedford Healthcare Review was launched two years ago, and was designed to look at how services in each of the two towns could be merged.
However the scheme came under a barrage of criticism, not least as its budget rose from a predicted £3.2million to £4.5million.
Concerns were also raised that the scheme could mean a ‘significant’ downgrade of Bedford’s A&E department.
And the scheme received a final blow in June when it announced a proposal to close Bedford’s maternity unit – only to backtrack days later.
The project then seemed to be superseded in June by the launch of the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Sustainability and Transformation Plan, which would coordinate the future of Bedford and Milton Keynes hospitals along with Luton – but the two projects are only now being merged, two months later.
Meanwhile Bedford Borough Council is continuing to run its own review, designed to protect services in the borough.
Cllr Jackson said: “It is very pleasing to see that the review has made specific reference to the borough’s plan to integrate health and social care.
“I hope that NHS England will now work with the council to make that essential integration happen, whilst also retaining core services such as A&E, maternity and paediatrics at Bedford Hospital.”
Pauline Philip, chief executive of Luton and Dunstable Hospital and lead for the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP), said: “We are currently talking to all STP partners to ensure we get the right systems and structures in place.”