Earlier today, I chaired a meeting between Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, the Medical Director of NHS England, and those MPs for areas served by hospitals subject to his review. Bucks NHS Trust, which provides services at Wycombe hospital, is to be investigated.
We had a constructive discussion of both the review and the situation in each area. It’s clear that the inclusion of at least one hospital for statistical reasons surprised local people. We learned that those statistics are complex and there can be good reasons why the numbers are high. That’s in line with what the Trust has told me. I remain open-minded about the possibility that persistently high mortality in Bucks will be found to have a compelling explanation.
However, we have had a long series of unacceptable incidents of poor patient care locally, not least in relation to accessing services. We do have excellent cardiology and stroke services in Wycombe: what’s crucial is that people know how they ought to access them and that common sense is exercised when preferred “patient pathways” are not followed. No one should be turned away from our local walk-in centre when they could be admitted to the specialist unit across the road. Transport must be improved. Waiting times at local A&E departments have been too long for both patients and ambulances. Other issues have been brought to my attention and we are under-funded by national standards.
All this must be improved. That will require open discussion and practical action.
I have consistently called for openness within the NHS. The Royal College of Nursing has today said there is a culture of fear and intimidation in some clinical settings which has discouraged staff from raising concerns.
If the NHS is to provide safe and effective, high quality care for patients, it is vital there is no place for vested interests or concealment. That’s why Sir Bruce’s investigation is so important: we need it to deliver an honest, transparent and constructive path for local health services which meet our needs within the available resources. I’m confident it can do so.