The consultation meeting yesterday about changes to local health service affecting Wycombe Hospital brought doctors making the proposals and concerned residents face to face. That there were around 100 members of the general public present — which was significantly more than at other similar meetings in the county — and showed how high feelings are running about the future of our hospital.
I made it clear that what local people wanted was the return of A&E and full maternity provision to Wycombe Hospital, and there was a lot of support in the hall for this. Many people were concerned services were moving away from Wycombe, and needed clarification on just what would be treated locally and when they would have to travel to other hospitals for treatment.
It was made clear by doctors stroke and cardiac services would remain at Wycombe, and that most other services would not be changed. At times, the Primary Care Trust did not seem to appreciate the depth of public antagonism towards the considerable, time-consuming inconvenience of patient and visitor travel times to Aylesbury, and the despondency caused by successive waves of service withdrawals.
It is clear the PCT has not yet satisfactorily explained how its proposals will affect patients. There is local disappointment over the closure of A&E under Labour. As a result, many residents are cynical and feel we are on a slippery slope which will see more services withdrawn in the future. They see these limited proposals as part of a longer term strategy and do not accept why a growing town the size of Wycombe does not have a General Hospital.
I believe the best way forward is to have more local accountability and control. Foundation Trust status would be an important step in the right direction and would give the people in Wycombe the chance to shape the clinical services they need and value.