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Mayor: STP Must Heed its Own Consultation and Retain Hospital Services

July 8, 2017 8:36 AM

Dave Hodgson with Town Bridge behindMayor Dave Hodgson has called on the NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) programme for Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes to scrap its idea of downgrading local hospitals, after its own report revealed overwhelming public, patient and NHS staff opposition.

In March, the STP published a 'discussion document' which featured 'ideas' including reducing A&E services in at least one of the three hospitals, ceasing consultant-led maternity care in at least one hospital and removing higher-risk births, and reducing paediatric care at two of the hospitals, with care for the most unwell children concentrated at one of the three sites.

Consultation on the document took place throughout March, and the STP has published a report summarising the feedback it has received. On the issue of changes to hospital services, the summary reports concerns about the proposed reductions for A&E, Paediatrics and Maternity services. It also reports views expressed by people over NHS underfunding and the need for greater public and local authority involvement in the plans, two key issues raised throughout by Mayor Dave Hodgson.

Commenting, Mayor Dave Hodgson said: "This consultation should serve as a wake-up call for the STP. Even the STP itself could not deny the clear messages from NHS staff, patients and the public in response to its own consultation. Downgrading key local hospital services will harm patient care, and makes no sense in the face of growing local populations.'

"There is still time for the STP to change course and pledge to protect key services such as full maternity, paediatrics and A&E at all three hospital. It must do so to stop the damaging uncertainty for Bedford Hospital, and to allow a focus on achieving real sustainability and improved, not reduced, services."

The STP's 'What We've Learnt So Far' report can be downloaded on its website here: http://www.blmkstp.co.uk/publication/what-weve-heard-so-far/

Feedback summarised in the report includes the following:

- Under 'General Views', it reports that 'many felt that NHS underfunding was the fundamental problem' and that 'many respondents also mentioned the need for greater public and local authority involvement in the plans.' These are two key issues which Mayor Dave Hodgson has raised both publicly and privately with key decision-makers.

- On the issue of Emergency Care, it reports that 'there was almost unanimous agreement that 24/7 A&E services should be maintained on all three hospital sites, as it was felt increased travel (beyond 20 minutes) would put unnecessary strain on patients and could be life threatening.' NHS staff and patients also 'expressed concern that removal or downgrading of A&E could impact on a Trust's viability and ability to recruit staff.'

- On maternity, it reports that "…the majority of respondents wanted to see full obstetrics services retained at all three hospital sites, especially given the expected increase in the number of births…" and that "…concern remained that provision of full obstetrics units on fewer sites could increase 999 calls and that increased travelling for high risk mothers could increase risk and cause psychological and physical harm to mother and baby…"

- On paediatrics and the idea of providing paediatric care for the most unwell children at one of the three hospitals and removing it from the other two, it reports that "…there were concerns about travel and family support for unwell children who needed to stay away in hospital."