Healthcare bosses have launched yet another multi-million pound review – and this time it could link Milton Keynes hospital to Bedford AND Luton.
The grandly-named Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Sustainability and Transformation Plan involves 16 different organisations in its quest for cash savings and quality improvements.
It will scrutinise everything from primary care to ambulance provision and could spark fresh concern about A&E closures and shared emergency care.
With Milton Keynes and Bedford hospitals heavily in debt, it has already prompted criticism that more money could be wasted on planning when it would be better spent on health care.
The new project comes on top of the ongoing £4.5 million MK and Bedford Healthcare Review, which is considering pooling the two hospital’s resources.
And it comes three years after Milton Keynes scrapped a £2.2m programme called Healthier Together, which considered linking a string of hospitals over four different counties.
The transformation plan, known as STP, will be led by Pauline Phillip, the boss of Luton and Dunstable hospital – the only hospital of the trio showing a healthy balance sheet.
The scheme was launched this week to city councilllors on the health and wellbeing board.
A briefing note explained: “The STP does not replace the health care review.... It is a separate (nationally directed) collaboration to transform health and outcomes across local communities.”
It adds: “The health care review will continue and the STP will proceed in parallel, although strong links will ensure that emerging findings from one programme informs the other.”
A source said: “All those extensive consultations and millions of pounds spent exploring various options seem to have come to nothing.
“The options will now be looked at in the STP that no one yet understands. But it is obvious if is now wider than MK and Bedford hospitals.
“People could argue that given the huge deficit facing MK hospital, all the money spent on the reviews, never mind the doctor time, could have gone to hospital itself.”
A spokesman for Milton Keynes hospital said: “We haven’t got anything to add to the briefing notes... So we won’t be making comments at this stage.”