A CONSULTATION process over planned changes to Wycombe Hospital has given the public "unrealistic expectations", says a Bucks MP.

Earlier this month Stewart George, a Bucks NHS chief, said the plans to remove several specialist services from Wycombe Hospital would not be derailed by public opinion.

He stressed only clinical evidence could force a U-turn, as the proposals had been led by doctors and clinicians (see related links).

After reading his comments Wycombe MP Steve Baker said: "It should have been made absolutely clear at the beginning what clinically-led meant, and what was required to influence the proposals was clinical evidence.

"People may well make a difference to the proposals and I don’t doubt [the Bucks NHS] is listening and changes could be made around the edges.

"But the current way the system is set up encourages the public to believe they will have a substantial influence on the proposals.

"In the end they are only consulting on one option and I think it’s important to create a realistic impression amongst the public about what that means. I just question the way consultations are set up in the NHS.

"I don’t doubt they are engaging but I would encourage them to do it in a manner which doesn’t create unrealistic expectations."

The consultation document says the views of patients are ‘valued’ and repeatedly encourages the public to ‘Have Your Say’ on the plans.

Mr George, joint chairman of the NHS Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Cluster, has since expanded on his comments, saying: “"We hope that people will respond on the basis of understanding the proposals, which are designed to ensure clinically safe, high quality and sustainable services for local patients.

"To date, a number of people have responded, not understanding the proposals. The consultation does not close until April 16 and we welcome further responses."

A spokesman for the NHS Cluster said: “The purpose of consultation is for patients and the public to review the proposals and the evidence behind them, offer alternative views and express ideas and concerns.

“We value the input of patients and the public and since the consultation began have had discussions with a wide range of individuals and organisations and have had a range of responses. "We have already become aware of issues concerning the proposals which we will look at....

“At the end of the consultation period we will have an independent report on all of the feedback and we will review the proposals in the light of this before any decision is made to change services.”

For more details on the plans see related links.