A&E services are set for a “major downgrade” at either Bedford or Milton Keynes Hospital.
Healthcare across the two areas is currently subject to a joint £3.2million review, plotting a major overhaul.
The review has now cut the options down to 14 possible choices, and all the scenarios rule out the possibility of both hospitals remaining ‘major emergency centres’, which provide 24/7 consultant-delivered A&E, with emergency surgery, acute medicine and inpatient paediatrics.
Andrew Pakes, the Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate in Milton Keynes South, said: “At least one of the two hospitals will have a major downgrade of A&E. The other hospital may still have an A&E, but not as we know it.
“What really shocks me is that Milton Keynes is one of the fastest growing areas in the country, and will be the region’s biggest centre outside of London ten years from now. The only debate we should be having is how we locate more services across the city and release pressure on the hospital, not downgrading provision or taking services out of the borough.”
He added: “Apparently it is financially unsustainable to have major A&E departments in both Bedford and MK.
“And there is no guarantee that either hospital will have an A&E – they could both go, and patients who are seriously ill in an emergency will have to go somewhere else such as Northampton or Luton & Dunstable.”
The healthcare review is being led by Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), the organisations which oversee healthcare in their areas.
Originally their proposals covered 36 possible scenarios for which services would be provided at each centre.
These have now been reduced to just 14 options, with the choice of having ‘major emergency centres’ at both Milton Keynes and Bedford ruled out because “sustaining emergency surgery on both sites is not sustainable in the long-term”.
Figures produced as part of the review show that Milton Keynes has a growing and ageing population. The number of people served by the hospital will grow by 15 per cent over the next seven years, and the number of people aged 65-plus will increase by almost half (45 per cent) between 2012-2020.
The current £3.2million review of healthcare services is the successor to a previous review called Healthier Together. That was scrapped 18 months ago, after looking at how to merge services between Bedford, Milton Keynes, Kettering, Northampton, and Luton & Dunstable.
Mr Pakes warned that even if Milton Keynes Hospital does retain A&E facilities there will still be an impact on local services.
He said: “If Milton Keynes keeps A&E then it won’t be the same; we would become an A&E for everyone from Milton Keynes and for everyone who currently goes to Bedford too.
“We could also lose some other services from our hospital too to be provided at Bedford, and people will have to travel all the way to Bedford to get treatment.
“Some people would call that downgrading.”
Dr Nicola Smith, GP and chairwoman of Milton Keynes CCG, said: “The Healthcare Review is working with local clinicians and undertaking extensive modelling of patient flows and travel times to ensure we provide the right care in the right place, by those with the right skills: first time and that the future demands of the populations of Beds and Milton Keynes are met.”