Last Friday afternoon, I was able to listen to my colleague’s debate on Acute and Emergency Services. Dr Philip Lee MP explained to the House his ideas for a consolidated super hospital on the M4 at junction 8/9.
During the debate I made this point:
He has set a number of hares running in my constituency. Will he concede that a number of NHS professionals, managerial and clinical, differ with him and think that a network of hospitals is an effective and incremental way forward?
Given the current management of NHS services in the Wycombe area, I was interested in how Dr. Lee described and defined his proposed M4 hospital. I reproduce a number of key extracts of his speech:
Health care provision in the future will require consolidation of acute and emergency services in fewer locations… In some places, reconfiguration and changes to hospital services are already a necessity, not an option…Yes, I concede that some—not many—local clinicians share that view. Whenever one presents something different that is a challenge to the status quo, one will come up against vested interests, particularly in the National Health Service. Many of my colleagues in the Chamber need to start engaging with the public on the issue. It is coming round the corner, and we should all try to provide the political environment in which the change can take place.
The Foundation Trust Network found that 90% of NHS trusts said that a major change, such as a hospital merger, closure or changing the way that services are provided, was necessary in their area in the next two years. Critically, eight in 10 trusts felt that a reconfiguration in their area would lead to maintained or improved patient outcomes which would not be possible if the change did not take place.
ICM’s polling of the public shows conflicting views. Four out of 10 people initially stated that they would prefer to be treated locally, but when asked to rank the importance of having services close to home versus accessing specialist care when being treated for a serious condition, more than half said that it was more important to be treated in a unit that specialised in their treatment area. That number rose to 60% if the respondent was talking about a loved one receiving the treatment rather than themselves.
Health Minister, Dr. Daniel Poulter, replied for the Government and gave Dr Lee this advice:
I know that he is already working with his primary care trust and strategic health authority, and with fellow MPs whose constituents and hospitals will be affected by the proposals, and I urge him to continue to engage at local level with the PCT and the SHA, and with colleagues. If he continues to advocate the case that he has outlined today, he will bring people with him.
It is important to stress, however, that the decisions will be taken at local level. As PCTs turn into local clinical commissioning groups, it will be a matter for those groups to work together to decide what health care services will look like at local level.
After much concern about reduced services in Wycombe over the years, coupled with the recent replacement of the Emergency Medical Centre with the Minor Injuries and Illness Unit, such arguments need to be heard. Importantly, local people should be brought into the decision making process, while medical professionals must convey solutions clearly and effectively.