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Alex Collingwood criticises regional hospital plan
ONE person to speak out against proposals for a new Thames Valley regional hospital last night was Wycombe District Council leader Alex Collingwood.
The Marlow ward member was almost a lone voice among the 80-strong audience at Great Marlow School as he questioned Dr Phillip Lee over radical plans for a ‘super hospital’ at Junction 8/9 of the M4 motorway.
Cllr Collingwood, a Conservative, said the M4 motorway suffers from constant closures, which would often make it difficult for patients to get to.
He added: “Also, who pays for it? How has the treasury reacted to your proposals? The person you have to convince is George Osborne."
He also questioned whether the local infrastructure would cope, saying “our roads are full”, adding “a better proposal would be to redo it in Wycombe”.
Dr Lee, Conservative MP for Bracknell, countered: “First of all show me a location that doesn’t have traffic problems around here...Wherever you choose there’s going to be traffic problems.”
He said it was crucial to have the hospital on a bypass or motorway as there would be more traffic lanes, providing better access than current hospital sites.
He pointed out the whole concept behind the new hospital is based around it serving a population of 750,000 people, which Wycombe does not have.
He added: “Of course I’d love it to be in downtown Bracknell....but if you’re trying to appeal to 750,000, by definition it’s got to be ‘not close’ to 650,000 of them.”
Much of the funding would come from the complete closure and sale of hospital sites such as Wexham Park and Heatherwood, along with parts of other sites such as Wycombe and Upton hospitals.
Dr Lee added the funding required for the project, estimated at around £750 million, was tiny compared to the £2 billion spent every week on the NHS.
The plans received a generally positive reaction from audience members.
Wycombe MP Steve Baker said he would support the project if it is backed by Bucks doctors in the Chiltern Clinical Commissioning Group [CCG].
Dr Annet Gamell, of Chiltern CCG, told the meeting she had concerns about the impact on Stoke Mandeville and Amersham hospitals, and questioned what would happen to the PFI contracts that still have many years to run.
But she added: “I’d like to say how much we welcome the proposal and the debate and discussion... [we] haven’t made our minds up either way.”
More from the meeting next week.