Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Road to nowhere.



            ROAD TO NOWHERE

Back in mid-January, there was an extraordinary public meeting at the Holiday Inn, Maidenhead. Addressed by the Tory MP for Bracknell Dr Phillip Lee, this was his chance to set out his vision for the future of healthcare in the area. In fact, there was a public consultation going on, about the future of healthcare provision in the area, but I fear he is going to be consulted a lot more than the rest of us put together.

“All we need is a bit of courage to go for it” he told the audience – which is fine if it’s a bungee jump, not so fine for healthcare.

I should explain; Heatherwood and Wexham Park NHS Foundation Trust, is in fact four hospitals and a walk in centre, which between them all are bit of a history of the old NHS.

Upton Park Walk-in centre in Slough was once the old Parish Union Workhouse (please sir, can I have some more) and now deals with minor troubles only.

Maidenhead has a small out patient hospital dealing with specialisms. Windsor has an out patients hospital – it does eyes and ears etc.

Heatherwood in Ascot, was a 1920’s TB hospital, set in a wood, it is made up of separate buildings housing wards joined by roofed walkways open to the elements at ground level, along which Nurses once wheeled the TB sufferers, to benefit from fresh, country air and sunlight. It recently lost it’s A and E to save money.

Wexham Park north of Slough was built in the 1960’s,  as a modern efficient, open, airy hospital, to serve a major town and has an A and E to cover the whole area as well as dealing with the full range of treatments.

The Doctor and Tory MP wants to sell off all the hospital sites and replace them with a super hospital near junction 8/9 of the M4 motorway. It would be convenient for his Bracknell constituents but no one else.

At £600 million he sees this paid for by the sale of the land the current Hospital’s occupy. Problem is £600 million doesn’t buy you a super hospital these days. By the time it’s built it will probably be more than the £1000 million that other similar ventures have cost recently (like the new London Hospital, recently opened).

The land isn’t worth it, even if houses in Ascot are pretty exclusive. I would be very surprised if it raised £100 million from the sale of all five hospitals.

That means only the incredibly expensive Public Finance Initiative could pay for it, and over 50 years the taxpayer would have to find more than £3000 million, if the new London Hospital is anything to go by. It’s annual PFI interest payments are £100 million, not including the running costs of the Hospital.

Now if the trust was well run…. in fact last year it lost £6.5million. So where do the annual payments for PFI come from? However that isn’t the only point.

The argument is that as treatment becomes more specialised, you need more and better trained Doctors; gathered together in super-sized hospitals. So, fewer A and E’s but better staffed, providing 24/7 expert care.

The thing is, this area only has one A and E anyway, as does the next door area covered by Ashford and St. Peter’s. They cut the departments but they shrunk the staff too.

When next door Ashford A and E shut, the argument was that between St. Peter’s and Wexham Park, you were never more than about 8 miles from an A and E. if Wexham shuts….Bracknell is a long way, through the most clogged up motorways in Britain.

No public transport.

Road to nowhere.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

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