Steve Baker outside Wycombe Hospital
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The NHS in Buckinghamshire has given its response to the Better Healthcare in Bucks public consultation. The headline breakthrough is that the Board reviewed public feedback and decided that the new minor injuries and illness service in Wycombe must be available 24/7 to meet the needs of patients out of hours.

New services have also been agreed:

  • Day assessment unit for older/frail people at Wycombe Hospital to allow them to be diagnosed and treated without overnight admission to hospital;
  • Step-down ward for elderly and medical patients at Wycombe Hospital – who still require 24 hour hospital care but with less specialist input ;
  • Telephone and email advice service for GPs and ambulance crews to help them better support patients out of hospital;
  • Urgent next-day outpatient appointments to help patients avoid hospital admission; and
  • Full specialist diagnostic support for GPs to help better manage patients in the community or at home.

In addition, the Board decided to:

  • Centralise the A&E consultant team and specialist inpatient care for emergency medicine, respiratory, gastroenterology, medicine for older people and diabetes at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, complemented by the specialist stroke and cardiac services already based at Wycombe Hospital;
  • Centralise and create a specialist breast care centre at Wycombe Hospital; and
  • Retain routine vascular services at Wycombe Hospital but transfer complex vascular surgery to the John Radcliffe in Oxford.

Commenting on the decisions, Dr. Geoff Payne, Medical Director for the NHS Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Clusters, said:

These proposals have been put forward by local doctors and other clinicians in the belief that they offer the safest and highest quality services for patients now and in the future.  During our consultation period we tried to reach as many people as possible through a variety of methods, including public meetings, drop in sessions and through the media.   All of our proposals received support, but people also raised a wide range of issues and concerns.  As a Board, we need to take these into account.  The proposals have, therefore, been accepted, but on the basis that we maintain a 24/7 urgent care service at Wycombe Hospital and that we continue our work on improving transport and car parking and on improving communications.  We have also agreed to ensure that the benefits of these proposals are tracked in the public domain. Finally thank you to all of those people and organisations who contributed to this consultation in so many different ways.

The consultation itself saw 1,350 local people engaged face to face through public, partner and community meetings and road shows, with 400 of those attending the public meetings. 170 articles appeared on the consultation while the questionnaire was completed by 120 people who between them contributed over 1,000 comments.

As I have said before, I believe we need far greater direct public control over the deployment of health resources. It’s not good enough that the NHS is beyond the control of both those who pay for it and their elected representatives. It ought to be possible for the public to participate meaningfully in the necessary conversation about the balance between absolute quality, availability and cost of health services. In the meantime, I am glad the battle for 24/7 urgent care at the hospital appears to be won and I look forward to leading a delegation to see the Secretary of State.

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