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'Forget about getting A&E back in Wycombe', says Dr Phillip Lee
WYCOMBE has been told to forget about clawing back specialist hospital services such as A&E.
Dr Phillip Lee, the MP who wants to build a new regional hospital to serve the Thames Valley, last night reiterated his message that the era of ‘district general hospitals’ is dead.
He is calling for a ‘super hospital’ to be built at Junction 8/9 of the M4, serving a population of about 600,000.
About 25 people attended a meeting at The Hub in Easton Street, High Wycombe to discuss the plans, which received a mixed reaction from members of the public.
Dr Lee’s plan would bring the full closure of Heatherwood Hospital, which is within his Bracknell constituency, as well as Wexham Park Hospital in Slough. Part closures would also be needed at sites such as Wycombe.
Loudwater resident David Abbott and Wycombe councillor Tony Green insisted that restoring key services to Wycombe Hospital would be a better option for south Bucks patients.
But Dr Lee said: “If you did that clinical outcomes would be poorer....You wouldn’t get the best hospital for your community. You’re not going to get a bells and whistles hospital in Wycombe.”
He says it has become impossible to provide specialist services safely at hospitals such as Wycombe, as they cannot be staffed properly.
Specialist surgeons, for example, would not be doing enough operations to maintain their skills, while the overnight and weekend cover would be inadequate.
And Dr Annet Gamell, representing a key group of Bucks GPs set to take over NHS budgets, said: “District general hospitals are not safe. Consolidating services on to fewer sites is very much the way forward.”
She and the Chiltern Clinical Commissioning Group expressed “significant concerns” about Dr Lee’s plan however, and the effect it would have on the existing hospital network in Bucks, after paying a private firm to review the proposals (see related links).
Dr Lee responded: “Of course it’s going to have a knock-on effect on other hospitals. You don’t have to commission a report to know that. You don’t need to state the bleeding obvious...
“We have got too many acute hospitals in this country. Some are going to stop being the hospitals they have been....It’s going to happen and I’d rather it happened in the most acceptable way.”
He stressed the urgent need for a national plan to centralise services, but finds it shocking that “nobody at the Department of Health is working on this”.
Former High Wycombe mayor Frances Alexander told the meeting: “I think this is a very sensible thought out idea...but you’ve got to make people understand the valuable role the local hospitals [such as Wycombe] will play.
“You’ve got to make sure that people don’t think they’re all going to be closed.”
Dr Lee agreed local hospitals would have a crucial role to play in the ‘hub and spoke’ system, providing ‘run-of-the-mill’ care for most patients, while more serious cases would go to the hub hospital.
He also agreed with radiographer Deborah Sanders that Beaconsfield would need some kind of community clinic to provide non-specialist care as a 'spoke' in the South Bucks district.
Wycombe MP Steve Baker said the plans were “honest and courageous”, but said the new hospital is not what Bucks patients and doctors want. He also pointed out the plan is a proposal by an individual MP, and does not represent government or NHS policy.
BFP editor Steve Cohen, who chaired the meeting, noted there were several doctors and 'health bureaucrats' at the meeting who had pushed the case for centralising hospital services.
But he added: “There are lots of country bumpkins, me included, who remain to be convinced. And until you convince us then you’ve got a big task on your hands.”