Last week Bedford Borough Council published the cross-party commissioned PWC report into the future of Bedford Hospital. The report shows there is an alternative way forward to the unpopular options put forward by the now suspended Healthcare Review, which would mean a greatly reduced maternity unit & loss of paediatric services. The proposals from the Council commissioned report retain full maternity services and paediatrics, and additionally take into account the fact that NHS services and social care services need to work together in order for both to be affordable to the public purse.
Councillor Louise Jackson (left), Labour’s Portfolio Holder for Public Health at Bedford Borough, has now written directly to the Chief Executive of NHS England Simon Stevens asking him to consider the alternative proposals, and to bring to a conclusion the lengthy review which has caused uncertainty for the hospital, which nevertheless scored highly in a recent Care Quality Commission inspection.
Cllr Jackson was Labour’s spokesperson on Health at the start of the subsequently abandoned Healthier Together programme in 2012, which sought to configure Acute Services across five hospitals. She also served on the committees scrutinising the paediatric services review which followed the decision to withdraw junior doctors from Riverbank ward in 2013. At that time Louise met with representatives of the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health in Parliament to discuss how Bedford might deliver a 21st century, safe and sustainable paediatric service. As the paediatric review morphed into a wider healthcare review across Bedford and Milton Keynes, following intervention from Monitor and the Trust Development Authority, Louise continued to challenge this in her scrutiny role. Labour Councillors Anthony Forth and Mohammed Masud now continue to scrutinise the review at committee level.
Louise said: “I am by no means opposed to change, if that change is positive and will improve health outcomes. None of my experience, however, led me to believe that the direction of travel was likely to deliver a sustainable future for either Milton Keynes or Bedford hospital. Neither do I believe that the changes being considered over this interminable period of uncertainty would improve health outcomes for Bedford Borough residents.”
The Sustainability Transformation Plan, announced in January this year, has now linked Bedford Hospital, Milton Keynes Hospital and Luton & Dunstable Hospital into a ‘footprint’ along with the respective councils in the area.
Louise continued; “I was cautiously optimistic about this process, and hoped it might present opportunities for mainstreaming prevention, delivering care in the right place at the right time, reducing delayed discharge and, ultimately, moving towards the integration of Health and Social Care across the STP footprint and in conjunction with local Councils. It was deeply disappointing, therefore, to learn that the Healthcare Review was to continue as the acute work-stream of the STP, since it had never offered any indication that it would ever align with these important objectives.”
One reason cited for the Healthcare review’s suspension was ‘to ensure that the direction of travel was consistent with the developing Sustainability Transformation Plan’.
Louise added; “It is my belief that the review signally fails to align with the STP. Moving core services from Bedford Hospital is not transformational – certainly not in any positive sense. Given the very considerable recruitment difficulties faced by our local hospital in recent years – difficulties which are partially attributable to its uncertain future – I fail to see either how the review’s proposals secure the future of services such as paediatrics and A&E. I am assured by clinicians that the interdependencies of obstetrics, paediatrics and A&E cannot be underestimated. Moreover, at no time has an accurate travel time analysis demonstrated that accessibility to services will be assured whichever way services are divided.”
“ I would like now to add my voice to those of Mayor Dave Hodgson and Richard Fuller MP, and urge Simon Stevens to abandon plans which so clearly contradict NHS England’s vision for a sustainable future for our health services. I hope too that the STP will now consider the very considerable benefits of a whole-system approach to the delivery of health and social care services, and that the Council’s proposals will be accepted as a serious contribution to this important process.”