Full A&E, maternity and paediatrics services are to remain at both Bedford AND Luton hospitals, the T&C can reveal.
In an exclusive interview, the chief executives of the two hospitals have revealed that their planned merger will not result in these key services being reduced at either site.
Both bosses were keen to stress that patient care remained their number one priority.
David Carter, acting chief executive of Luton & Dunstable Hospital, said: “This is something we are fully committed to. There will be full consultant-led maternity services at both sites. There will also be full paediatrics, and A&E.
“And if you have both of those, and support them properly, you need the services that go with them.”
He added: “We believe that those services can be maintained by being a single organisation that oversees both sites. There’s no ambiguity about that. We will keep both sites’ services, for maternity, paediatrics and A&E, in full.”
The duo spoke to the T&C after an integration board meeting, with the process also taking in stakeholders including councillors across the county and Luton, the various clinical commissioning groups, Mayor Dave Hodgson, the county’s MPs, local GPs, staff, the hospital charities, and NHS body Healthwatch.
Mr Carter said: “We’ve both spent a lot fo time talking to our staff.
“But the fundamental principles have not changed. The care services, on both sites, will not change, and the benefits and opportunities of the merger haven’t changed.”
News of the merger was exclusively revealed by the T&C in September, via our website www.bedfordtoday.co.uk
It came alongside ongoing work by the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) to merge services between Bedford, Milton Keynes and Luton hospitals.
But there was concern in both Bedford and Luton about what the merger might mean for specific services – with A&E, paediatrics and maternity top of the list.
This interview with the two chief executives appears to ally those fears.
While the planned merger has yet to be given the official green light, both men were confident that the scheme would progress.
If it does then the single organisation will be formed on April 1 as Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Bedford’s chief executive Stephen Conroy said that the work would begin “on day one”.
He said: “We think it will take about a year for a number of the changes, and at the extreme end an area like IT might take three years to be fully merged. But we’ll achieve most things in the first one to two years.
“It’s about achieving this change safely, so we want patient to still get the care they have come to expect, and staff to still be supported and get paid.”
Mr Conroy said there had been no major surprises about the project to date, but there was one aspect which was remarkable.
“The teams across the two sites are working together extremely well,” he said.
“Sometimes with a merger it can feel like a takeover, or a competition. But the relationship between the managers, and the staff, is very effective, which is allowing us to move forward at full pace.”