A top NHS leader who visited Wycombe Hospital with MP Steve Baker says returning its A&E department “would not be practical”, in a blow to campaigners who have fought to have the service returned.

Professor Jonathan Benger, the most senior clinician to advise the NHS on accident and emergency services in the country, was invited to the hospital on September 22 by Mr Baker amid ongoing calls from campaigners for the department to be returned.

Following a “detailed” tour of the building, Professor Benger said “current clinical practice meant bringing back A&E to Wycombe Hospital would not be practical” – but said it would be the “right place” for an urgent treatment centre.

The centre would “complement” the work of the stroke and heart unit at the hospital, according to Professor Benger.

An urgent treatment centre would be equipped to diagnose and deal with conditions patients need treating urgently and would be part of locally integrated urgent and emergency care services working in conjunction with the ambulance service, NHS 111, local GPs, hospital A&E services and other providers.

Campaigners and residents have been calling for the return of the town's A&E department since it was closed ten years ago. 

Mr Baker said he was “grateful” for Professor Benger’s visit, adding: “I want an A&E at Wycombe Hospital, but appreciate this is not possible for clinical reasons. An Urgent Treatment Centre will allow us to get the vast majority of the treatment that we need without having to go to different and bigger hospitals.

“I am asking local NHS leaders to deliver an Urgent Treatment Centre as soon as possible.”

Professor Benger said: “All the evidence shows us that outcomes for patients improve when specialist, life or death care is provided in larger, well-equipped and staffed centres - even if there is a bit longer to travel to get there.

“Meanwhile, the majority of less serious urgent care needs can be well met by local, convenient facilities like the one I visited in Wycombe as part of a wider urgent care network which also includes GPs, NHS 111 and ambulance service.

“Getting urgent and emergency care right often means taking difficult decisions, but I am confident that this approach is right for Wycombe, as it is across the country.”

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