EMERGENCY services in Wycombe would seem to be downgraded further by NHS plans published this week (see link below for main story).

With about 300 emergency medical patients being redirected to Stoke Mandeville or Wexham Park hospitals each week, the Emergency Medical Centre [EMC] would be replaced by a minor injuries and illness service.

The remaining ‘urgent care patients’ (about 630) going to Wycombe each week do not require admission to hospital, so would still be treated there by non-specialist staff or referred to a GP.

The NHS Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Cluster argued this is not a ‘downgrade’, despite conceding Wycombe would no longer have round-the-clock cover from A&E consultants, as it does currently.

It said there are not enough consultants to be spread across two sites, while merging the more specialist work at Stoke Mandeville will save £2 million in expenditure per year.

Wycombe Hospital would retain its specialist stroke and cardiology services, as well as a GP-led ‘urgent care service’ - for people who turn up without having seeing a doctor or paramedic first.

However, ambulance crews would be told to take medical patients needing urgent hospital attention to Stoke Mandeville or Wexham Park.

This would complete a move that started in 2005, when Wycombe’s trauma unit was closed - meaning seriously injured patients already have to go to Stoke Mandeville. Wycombe's main maternity ward also moved to Stoke in 2009.

Health bosses say the new plans will create better A&E services for Bucks, with increased staffing and reduced mortality rates.

They also point to the waste created by unnecessary attendances at Wycombe’s Emergency Medical Centre, where 30 per cent of those who present are admitted to hospital.

New telephone and email advice services are set to be developed to help prevent unnecessary hospital attendances.

Meanwhile, a GP practice based in the health centre at Wycombe Hospital will close, because of a shortage of registered patients. Only 600 people have registered since it opened in 2009, against an expected figure of 6,000.