NHS chiefs for Bucks say they were not aware of a 2007 study which examined concerns surrounding the centralisation of emergency wards.

A national newspaper campaign against A&E closures has been highlighting the findings of the study by the Medical Care Research Unit at Sheffield University – which looked at the "relationship between distance to hospital and patient mortality in emergencies".

It found specialist centres improve outcomes for some groups of emergency cases such as major trauma patients, but it adds: "However, there are also some groups of critically ill patients who need urgent but not specialist care.

"For example, patients in anaphylactic shock, choking, drowning, or having acute asthma attacks need urgent care that would be the same wherever it is provided.

"For these patients, there may be a detriment in having to travel increased distances...

The study argues the current debate within the NHS should be about extending the list of patient conditions that should bypass local hospitals and be taken to specialist centres, rather than about the closure of local emergency rooms.

Wycombe Hospital's emergency ward has been completed closed this month (see related links), so the study suggests some Wycombe patients now being directed to Stoke Mandeville Hospital, such as those with breathing problems, could now be at increased risk.

The Bucks Free Press asked the NHS if the recent changes could be detrimental for this group of patients.

The NHS Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Cluster and Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust said they were not aware of this research, but said "things have moved on since this study".

In a joint statement they added: "It is now much clearer that emergency patients generally do better when they are diagnosed and treated in A&E departments with strong teams of senior doctors on hand 24/7.

"In the past the senior A&E team was split between Stoke Mandeville and Wycombe Hospitals and faced staffing problems which could have led to a deterioration in the quality and safety of services.

"Centralising this senior team in the Stoke Mandeville site means that this is no longer a risk. For the vast majority of patients, the benefits of this in terms of quality and safety of services far outweigh any additional risk attached to longer travel times."

See related links for more on this.