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Council Comes Together in Face of Hospital Downgrade Threat

March 2, 2017 4:15 PM

Bedford Hospital

Councillors of all parties and independents joined Mayor Dave Hodgson in demanding the protection of key services at Bedford Hospital at a Full Council Meeting last week.

Across the chamber there was unanimity in approving a motion which called for the retention of essential A & E, paediatric and obstetric services in the midst of an ongoing review, the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) process. The motion also highlights the fact that elected council representatives have largely been sidelined to date in the process.

The STP will outline plans to amalgamate services across the Bedford, Milton Keynes and Luton & Dunstable Hospital sites. Further proposals to integrate health and social care could have a huge impact on how patients access care.

In a joint statement, Mayor Dave Hodgson and Council Group Leaders said:

"The intention of the STP to better integrate health and social care services is one we can all support given the opportunity for significant, long-term improvements to services.

"There has been, however, a worrying lack of progress so far and minimal partnership working and engagement with elected representatives and the public, exacerbated by a lack of transparency in the STP process.

"We are deeply concerned about the absence of a commitment from the NHS organisations leading the STP to retain vital services at Bedford Hospital. Bedford Borough's population is growing and we must have a robust, accessible health and social care system which reflects this.

'We are calling on NHS partners to commit both to greater transparency and engagement and to protect core services at Bedford Hospital including consultant-led A&E, paediatrics and obstetrics."

The full text of the motion agreed unanimously by the Full Council is as follows:

The Council notes:

i. The aim and intention of the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) to work as partners and better integrate health and social care services is something on which we can all agree.

ii. That change is necessary and through the true integration of the health and social care systems real improvements can be made as to how patients and local residents experience these services. The STP also presents a real opportunity for local partners to work together to find a truly sustainable way forward.

iii. That STPs were announced in NHS planning guidance in December 2015. However, since then there has been a distinct lack of progress across the area of our local Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes STP.

iv. The STP's lack of democratic engagement with elected members of this Council. To date the Portfolio Holder for Public Health and the Elected Mayor have met only a few times with the lead of the STP. The Portfolio Holder for Adult Services has yet to be consulted. Elected members have an in-depth knowledge of their Wards, as well as the health and social care demands of the Borough, and they should be invited to participate during the formative stages, not when it is too late for them to have meaningful impact.

v. The absence of any robust travel time analysis for patients to reach each hospital across the Bedford, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK) area.

vi. The absence of a commitment from the NHS organisations on the STP locally to protect and retain the vital services of consultant-led A&E, paediatrics and obstetrics at Bedford Hospital, which have been placed under threat by the recent Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes Healthcare Review. These services are key to the future of Bedford Hospital and of our town. Bedford Borough's population is expected to grow by 10,000 by 2021, with the 85+ age group expected to increase by one third (32%) by 2021. We must have a robust accessible health and social care system to reflect this and retain core services of A&E, paediatrics and obstetrics in the Borough.

Accordingly, this Council requests that the Chief Executive write to the local STP lead, calling for:

i. Better engagement with both democratically elected representatives and the public across the local STP area, and;

ii. A public commitment from NHS partners in the STP to guarantee the retention of key services including full consultant-led A&E, paediatrics and obstetrics at Bedford Hospital.