Half a Million Facing 20-mile A&E Trip

There are crazy closure plans leaving half a million people left 20 miles from their nearest A&E under deeply worrying plans to cut two neighbouring casualty units.

The imminent threats are to the A&E’s in Milton Keynes and Bedford, which between them serve at least 500,000 people in the area with a fast-growing population.

GP’s have drawn up the cost-cutting plans as they face a £30million black hole in their NHS finances.

If both units close, emergency patients will have to go to Northampton, Kettering or Luton for life-saving treatment. All are at least 20 miles away from both towns.

For the past two years, The Mail on Sunday has been fighting to save A&E’s from closure. The latest threats mean there are now 16 units across England facing the axe.

Both A&E’s could close next year, despite warnings from Simon Stevens, new chief executive of the NHS, that England’s emergency service are already quite concentrated and they should not be cut from ‘viable local hospitals’ without very careful thought.

Politicians and health campaigner’s condemned the plans. Andrew Pakes, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Milton Keynes South, said ‘I’ve never seen the NHS under so much pressure here. Right now we are in the middle of the summer A&E crisis in Milton Keynes, with record numbers turning up. Any plans to downgrade A&E services here or in Bedford is absolutely crazy.

GP’s who run the groups have outlined 14 scenarios for the two hospitals. Only three involve both hospitals retaining full A&E’s.

Experts say there is no point having an A&E without being able to do emergency surgery, so both almost always get stripped out at the same time, At the moment both hospitals are classed as ‘major emergency centres’. A spokesman for the review said there were simply too few people in the area to  to justify keeping such a service at both hospitals – since guidelines suggest each of them alone requires a catchment area of about 500,000 people to be ‘clinically viable’

The group wants to spend more on GP and community services to keep people out of hospital longer – but to pay for that they need to cut hospital services.

I’m not quite sure how this will improve things at all, as even community care budgets are being slashed, meaning support services to back up GP’s work is gradually disintegrating. It would not suprise me if even Air Ambulances are spending more time ferrying emergency patients at A&E’s around than attending accidents.

From ‘Cradle to the Grave’ is a distant philosophy and from other posts on this blog I know my thoughts, I’m sure you have your own!. Life and death is now heading ever nearer to a cash flow problem that seems to have no resolution. ‘DECISIONS BY SO FEW AFFECTING SO MANY’

Thanks to Stephen Adams of The Mail on Sunday for his investigative work on this issue.

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