I am bitterly disappointed that Bucks PCT has so upset local people during the launch of the new Minor Inuries Unit (MIU) at Wycombe Hospital.
The PCT’s material advertising the opening (which you can read here, here and here) told everyone that the Emergency Medical Centre was closing to be replaced by an MIU on 1 October. As a result, a wave of panic has swept the town as people have interpeted it to mean that they are losing their local A&E Department.
In fact, we lost it under the last Labour Government in 2005!
For the last seven years Wycombe Hospital has only had an Emergency Medical Centre. We will continue to have specialist units for two of the biggest killers: heart attack and stroke.
The loss of the A&E Department in 2005 and the loss of the Emergency Medical Cente this year, together with other changes, have made many Wycombe residents bitter and fatalistic about the future of the hospital. They see a pattern and they feel it is leading towards ultimate closure. This cack-handed public awareness effort has caused yet another round of alarm and despondency – entirely unnecessarily – over an issue which was aired and settled earlier this year. The result will be to further widen the gap in trust between NHS managers and the public and make even modest services changes in the future subject to even greater distrust and cynicism.
It is a terrible own goal by the NHS.
It is exasperating that these publicity materials were not phrased in a less incendiary way. Terms like A&E and Emergency Medical Centre are jargon that may mean diffeent things to medical professionals but not the general public. Figuring that out is not rocket science. The PCT has reopened a wound and led people to believe they are losing something important, while in reality they haven’t had it for most of a decade.
Let there be no doubt: The move to an MIU is a futher downgrade that I, the Save Our Hospital Services group on which I serve and many concerned local residents and campaigners have resisted to our utmost. This reduction in emergency provision at Wycombe was 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. 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 Three Counties Radio. I also asked the Prime Minister for his views on local hospital services at Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons. All my public statements can be found on this website.
I serve on the local Save Our Hospital Services campaign group, and led a delegation to meet Andrew Lansley, the then Secretary of State for Health, on a number of occasions. We handed him petitions to inform him of the anger, fear and disillusionment over the closure of services at Wycombe Hospital, and to ask for a health official to examine the controversial consultation process. The Save Our Services group has also held meetings with the local Primary Care Trust, NHS Buckinghamshire and other NHS bodies to put the public’s view on the change in service provision.
All that said, the decision was nevertheless taken to open the new Minor Injuries Unit. I should love to be able to deliver a full-featured hospital in Wycombe but it is not possible and any politician who suggests otherwise is misleading you.
After so much work by so many concerned people, it is frustrating to discover that the consultation never reached so many people. Naturally, this taints the credibility of the consultation process. Had it been marketed as thoroughly as the decision to futher downgrade emergency provision, I do not doubt it would have thrown up even deeper opposition from our community. Our local newspaper the Bucks Free Press covered the consultation very well but their circulation is not as high as it might be. MPs no longer have a communication budget, so I could not contribute to the cost of informing residents.
I am assured by doctors the change is clinical rather than cost driven, but I will be watching closely the effect on my constituents. I have stated publicly that we cannot go on with public services organised in a way that is not sufficiently accountable to the public. If these changes do not work, I will call again for local mutual ownership of our hospital to make it fully accountable to the people it serves.