Should hospital plans be scrapped?

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It is time for health chiefs to kill off the “zombie review” into merging Bedford and Milton Keynes hospitals, MPs were told this week.

Over the last five years two separate studies have looked at the proposals – at a cost of around £6million.

But the most recent plan – the Bedford and Milton Keynes Healthcare Review – has been abruptly put on hold, and MP Richard Fuller this week told Parliament that the whole process should be scrapped.

He said: “What goes through the minds of people who are entrusted with our healthcare, and who think that it is OK to throw a report out into the public domain and then back away and say, ‘We cannot say anything about it’?

“There is no point in pausing the joint review if there’s other reviews going on. It is in clear conflict with the direction of the national STP.

“It doesn’t include integrated services, like the report commissioned by Bedford Borough Council.”

Mr Fuller said the final straw came after health bosses published plans to scrap maternity services in Bedford – and then refused to comment further by claiming it was silenced because of the imminent EU referendum.

Despite one healthcare review having already been scrapped, and the ongoing study, there is now a third, national review, the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP), looking at health services across Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes.

Mr Fuller said: “I have called it a number of times a ‘zombie’ review; no matter how much people would say, “This has no future prospects”, and however much it would be knocked back, the ‘zombie’ review would rise up and continue to walk forward.”

He added: “At the top of NHS England Simon Stephens has set a clear strategy through STP. Somewhere in the middle, I think someone is hanging on to the joint review. They should have the decency to say, ‘We’ve got it wrong’.

“It’s been going on for 10 years, here is their chance to close it down and walk away.”

Health minister Ben Gummer admitted Bedfordshire residents have been let down by the process.

He urged Mr Fuller and Bedford Borough Council continue their hard work to “influence how the STP is formed and to bring maximum pressure to bear to ensure that it reflects the wishes of local people”.