A crucial public consultation on the future of Wycombe Hospital began on 16 January. It is being run by Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Wycombe Hospital. This is our chance to have our say on proposals to change how NHS services are provided in High Wycombe.
The exercise runs until 16 April and there are consultation meetings scheduled throughout the area every week in February. I urge everyone who cares about the future of our hospital to take part.
Click here for an explanation of the proposed changes and the schedule of public consultation meetings you can attend.
Ever since I was first selected as the Conservative candidate for Wycombe, I have been working hard with local supporters of Wycombe Hospital. We are all keen to see services in the hands of the community and removed from further creeping centralisation and losses of service provision. So I welcome the Government’s intent in these current health reforms, which aim to move all NHS Trusts to NHS Foundation Trust status by April 2014 and to pass responsibility for purchasing patient care from Primary Care Trusts to the newly formed GP consortia a year before that.
This is a continuation of Labour Policy under the Blair government. NHS Foundation Trusts were introduced by Labour in the 2003 Health and Social Care Act as legally independent public benefit corporations. They are:
- Authorised and regulated by an independent regulator, known as Monitor;
- Accountable to their local communities through a system of local ownership with members and elected governors – the governors being elected by the members;
- Not required to break even each year although they must be financially viable. They can borrow money within limits set by the regulator, retain surpluses and decide on service development for their local populations;
- Free from central government control and strategic health authority performance management; and
- Required to lay their annual reports and accounts before Parliament each year.
There was a move to switch to Foundation status in Bucks during 2008 that was unsuccessful due to financial constraints. This initiative will be revived and a new submission is to be made in September 2012. I would encourage members of the public to support this move to Foundation status so that local people, as members and governors, can have much more direct control over Buckinghamshire hospitals.
My concerns are that Foundation Trusts may become too large and controlled from remote centres. That would be the opposite of both the Government’s vision and my own of a devolved and cooperative local arrangement. We need to avoid the bureaucracy and lack of accountability which has plagued the NHS locally for so long.
In the meantime, I again urge everyone interested in future of health provision in Wycombe to join in the consultation process. NHS consultations are currently how local voices are heard and I think it vital that hundreds of local people take part.