Decision whether to fund a new Milton Keynes A&E must await review

Joe Harrison, chief executive of Milton Keynes Hospital
Joe Harrison, chief executive of Milton Keynes Hospital

Milton Keynes Hospital’s chief executive says a decision whether to fund a new A&E department should be made following a wider review of NHS services in the region.

While hard-working staff at the hospital have helped improve waiting times for people visiting the A&E department, the limited size of the unit means the hospital remains in the bottom performing 10 per cent nationally with one in 10 patients waiting longer than four-hours to be treated.

Chief executive Joe Harrison said the hospital is committed to securing £24 million funding needed for a new unit but that a decision would have to wait until a review of health services is completed.

A case for change – the midway report from the Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes Healthcare Review was published yesterday which said urgent changes are needed if the region is to keep pace with the rest of the country.

The report sets out the challenges facing the NHS locally including increased demand from a growing and ageing population, major staff shortages and a rising deficit, all of which threaten the quality and safety of patient care.

This year Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes health services have a combined deficit of £21m. If nothing changes then by 2018-19 this will rise to around £100m.

Speaking about the difficulties facing the A&E department, Mr Harrison said: “In 2012-13 this hospital’s performance was among the worst in the country. However, we had 70,000 patients in the unit last year in an A&E department that was originally built to deal with 17,000.

“In 2013-14 we will see just under 80,000 patients so the numbers have gone up again. For the first time ever we saw over 7,000 patients in a month in March – it was built for a fifth of that.”

He added: “Apart from April, and despite the big increase in numbers, last year there has been a significant improvement in performance. I have a fantastic team here who go above and beyond the call of duty. We have put extra nurses and consultatnts in the department but ultimately it is the physical space which is the problem.

“The bill for a new A&E department is £24 million. What Monitor have said is is whilst this review of services goes ahead it would be inappropriate to give us the money and I accept this.

“But we can’t go on with what we have got – we can’t deliver high quality A&E services from the size of a shoe box.”