The meeting, at Great Marlow School, will be held on Friday October 14 from 7pm and has been arranged by the Save Hospital Services Committee – an independent group which includes politicians and campaigners from across the political spectrum in Wycombe. Health officials have agreed in principle to attend the meeting, which has been set up in response to the current NHS ‘engagement process’, called ‘Better Healthcare in Bucks’.
Several public sessions have also been arranged by the NHS as it prepares to set out new proposals later this year. These new plans, currently not formulated, could mean further radical service changes to our hospitals in Bucks. But the NHS meetings have been criticised for their format with some accusing them of asking leading questions. So the campaigners now want to hold their own meeting and ask the type of questions they believe the public would wish to pose.
Save Hospital Services warns residents to be on their guard for a repeat of the type of changes that sent shockwaves through local communities in 2004. A consultation process, entitled Shaping Health Services, led to key services being transferred from Wycombe to Stoke Mandeville in Aylesbury against the wishes of thousands of residents.
Among services that moved were the Special Care Baby Unit, emergency trauma and inpatient maternity. This has meant that almost all serious accidents are now treated in Aylesbury, and there are no more doctor-led births at Wycombe. Instead of an A&E, the hospital now has an emergency medical centre. And instead of a maternity department, Wycombe simply has a midwifery unit.
Now, campaigners fear the situation could become even worse as a result of the yet unknown changes to come later this year.
The Bucks NHS has previously stated that it favours specialisation in the county’s hospitals, but wants to retain a range of general services. “This is a warning light to us that there could be trouble ahead,” said Steve Cohen, who chairs Save Hospital Services. “We are not against specialisation per-se, but we fear this could lead to more general services being stripped away from Wycombe.”
Save Hospital Services Secretary John Barlow was present at one of the NHS engagement meetings, and he said he felt ‘leading’ questions’ were asked to get the desired answers. He said one question prompted participants to choose whether ‘quality’ of treatment was more important than the travel time involved, with quality being the obvious answer. “What we’ve all got to be a bit concerned about is the focus on the specialist complicated procedures”, he added. “The vast majority of treatments are not rocket science and they ought to be delivered locally.”
Please come along to Great Marlow School on Friday October 14 from 7pm – its your chance to have your say!