Many local residents share my deep concern about the future of services offered at Wycombe Hospital. Most recently, anxiety has been expressed about the opening of the new Minor Injuries Unit in early October and the ward moves that took place across Wycombe and Stoke Mandeville hospitals between 12 and 15 November.We are assured that Wycombe Hospital will continue to be the specialist centre for cardiac, stroke and vascular care as well as becoming the base for the county’s planned surgery centre. Its range of outpatient, day care and minor injury services will also remain.
Wycombe Hospital has not had a full Accident and Emergency service since 2005. For the last seven years there has only been an Emergency Medical Centre.
I would love a return to a full-featured hospital in Wycombe but it is not possible. Any politician who suggests otherwise is misleading people: every similar hospital in the country is subject to the same pattern of changes. Our local doctors are responsible for designing services to meet the needs of local people. I am assured by doctors that recent changes were clinical rather than cost driven. I will nevertheless be watching closely the effect on my constituents and will press the doctors in charge to deliver the best possible outcomes.
Changes to emergency provision at Wycombe were part of a public consultation which occurred earlier this year, entitled Better Healthcare in Bucks. Throughout the consultation process, I spoke up for constituents and stated clearly that Wycombe needed emergency cover. I called on local NHS leaders to heed the clear call from the public in Wycombe to provide 24-hour emergency cover at Wycombe Hospital.
During this consultation, I went on record saying that the process had given the public “unrealistic expectations” and that:
The current way the system is set up encourages the public to believe they will have a substantial influence on the proposals…In the end they are only consulting on one option and I think it’s important to create a realistic impression amongst the public about what that means. I just question the way consultations are set up in the NHS.
I am a committee member of the local Save Our Hospital campaign. As part of this campaign, I participated in all the local consultation meetings organised to hear local views, and gave many interviews including to the Bucks Free Press and BBC Three Counties Radio.
I led a delegation of local health campaigners to discuss Wycombe Hospital with the Health Secretary. He listened to us carefully and asked the Strategic Health Authority to consider our complaints further. I also challenged him during Health Questions in the Commons and I asked the Prime Minister for his views on local hospital services at Prime Minister’s Question Time.
I tried the bus journey from Wycombe bus station to Stoke Mandeville Hospital, as if I were going for a 10am outpatient’s appointment or a visit to an inpatient. I made a video of my journey here.
To build upon this, I participated in an ambulance shift in High Wycombe so I could discover firsthand what the experience is like for patients.
Back in early 2011, I handed in a public petition of 1547 signatures to the House of Commons which I also gave to the Health Secretary. It declared that the petitioners were concerned and unhappy about the continuing loss of control in the hospital services that are in the constituency.
I am always looking at possible ways to help provide the services that Wycombe clearly needs and which are demanded. Most recently, I listened carefully to my colleague Dr. Philip Lee’s proposal for a new super hospital at M4 Junction 8/9. I informed the Commons Chamber of Wycombe’s initial view on the initiative here. I am sceptical of the proposals for a number of reasons, not least because if there were any new services being made available in the Buckinghamshire area, then we would want them in Wycombe.
Under the NHS reforms passed early this year, 2013 will see the newly formed Chiltern Clinical Commissioning Group take over from the old Primary Care Trust. Buckinghamshire Health and Wellbeing Board is already in shadow form and will be up and running from April next year. I will be writing to the chairmen of these groups, once they are fully operational, to convey residents’ expectations for our hospital.
My commitment to the future of Wycombe Hospital is unwavering. My post bag and inbox reflect constituents anxious about the state of and prospects for our hospital. I will continue to fight for the best health services in Wycombe and to hold the NHS to account on the decisions that they make on our behalf.