Plan to move hospital services: 'Change is inevitable'

Plan to move hospital services: 'Change is inevitable'

Francis Batt

Plan to move hospital services: 'Change is inevitable'

Rumours and anxiety about the future of health services in Slough and Windsor will only end when firm decisions are announced - however painful they are.

That is the view of West Windsor councillor Cynthia Endacott (Independent: Clewer North), responding to the news that all healthcare services, including community hospitals, are being examined under an NHS plan to cut costs.

It was revealed this week that services at 'satellite', non-emergency hospitals like King Edward VII in Windsor, Upton in Slough and St Mark's Hospital in Maidenhead, could be moved to Wexham Park Hospital.

Cllr Endacott spent nine days in intensive care at Wexham recently after a major operation and praised the service and care she received. She added: "It is the uncertainty that is getting people down.

"Only a firm statement of intent by the health authorities will quell anxiety and rumours. I'm not saying it is right but it may be that services currently spread out will have to be condensed into one centre of excellence.

"If that did happen, people would want it to be a real centre of excellence not just to encounter the same old attitudes."

A public consultation on any changes is due to start in early autumn.

Plans have yet to be finalised but are being discussed by clinicians who will oversee the process.

This week Charles Waddicor, chief executive of the powerful Primary Care Trust that buys medical services from hospitals, held out little hope for quick solutions.

He said: "We have to get this right. We don't want to rush in and get it wrong.

"We want to find a solution that maintains standards, chimes with the wishes of local people and is affordable."

Colin Pill, chairman of the patient Local Involvement Network (LINK), felt change was inevitable.

He said: "We are all fond of hospitals we grew up with.

"There will always be a certain amount of passion for them. But ultimately it has to be about quality of patient care."

He said some new ideas being considered were welcome, such as keeping out-patient services open until 10pm so that patients could avoid having to take time off work.

But in Ascot there is growing anger about the perceived threat to Heatherwood, whose prized maternity unit closed last year. A week of action is planned at the end of this month.

Spiralling costs have led health chiefs to warn that nothing is sacred as new clinician-led programme called Shaping the Future looks at the future of health care in the area.

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