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My black eye may help save us from a black day at our hospital
9:51am Friday 13th April 2012 in Editor's Chair
IT turns out that my horrendous black eye of a few weeks ago may have been fate – because it could help save an important hospital service in Wycombe.
Regular readers will recall how I went to the emergency medical centre at Wycombe Hospital late at night last month after foolishly injuring myself playing football.
And I was stunned at just how many people were using the centre, formerly the A&E, on a Monday night.
Since then, I have pressed health officials for details of exactly how this unit will operate in the future after it has been altered under current NHS plans to reconfigure hospital services.
The NHS has been widely publicising its proposals to transfer 67 beds and some specialist services from Wycombe to Aylesbury.
Part of this involves downgrading Wycombe’s emergency walk-in centre. The unit will remain, but will be run instead by GPs instead of A&E consultants.
Thankfully, these GPs will have access to X-ray equipment and will be able to see patients, who come in with a range of minor ailments that don’t need an ambulance trip to Stoke Mandeville.
If it works, most people won’t even notice a difference and will still informally label the new unit ‘A&E’.
It will mean people will still be able to rush to Wycombe Hospital in the middle of the night without an appointment and see an emergency doctor to either give them minor treatment or to calm their fears.
However, there is a major sticking point.
There is no guarantee that this new unit will stay open 24 hours a day. NHS officials haven’t resolved this point yet, and some are citing evidence that most patients use the current emergency centre from 8am to 10pm.
There is therefore a very real risk the new downgraded unit will close, say, around midnight, meaning patients turning up in the early hours will find the doors shut to them.
Last week, I stood up at a public meeting in High Wycombe and addressed a panel of top doctors, specifically about this point. I spoke in my capacity as Chairman of the independent Save Our Hospital Services committee.
I told them about my own experience and just how busy I found ‘A&E’ late on a Monday night. And I implored them to keep open the new GP centre 24 hours a day seven days a week.
I wasn’t howled down, and afterwards I was thanked for making the point.
As a result, I have initiated a new campaign in the Star and Bucks Free Press. We are running a feedback form for readers, asking you to back us in keeping this new unit open all day long.
No definite decision has been reached on this point, and I am hopeful we can sway opinion within the health trusts before their consultation closes on April 16.
If we win, it won’t mean a return to the heyday of Wycombe General Hospital, when most functions were done on the Queen Alexandra Road site. Patients will still have to travel to Stoke Mandeville for many services, and the fight to reverse this will continue.
But if we do win on this point, it will mean at least we have safeguarded urgent 24 hour care at our local hospital.
And that will make this campaign – and my black eye – all the more worthwhile.