Hospital A&E downgrade still on course - but may mean hospital is no longer “sustainable”

A&E at Milton Keynes Hospital could still be downgraded by health bosses - DESPITE last week’s proposals for a £178million hospital investment.

Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group (MKCCG), which oversees healthcare across the city, have completed the second stage of a review of health services in Bedford and Milton Keynes. The report still calls for one hospital to remain a “major emergency centre” while the other loses various A&E functions.

The report also adds that the change may mean that one hospital is no longer “sustainable” and that other services may have to be “decommissioned”.

Last week MKCCG announced it was accepting the latest recommendations.

The report says: “Both options would leave a local health economy that encompasses Milton Keynes and Bedfordshire in financial balance.

“However the hospital site that became a major emergency centre would remain in deficit by more than £8million a year.”

It adds: “If there is a residual financial gap, this will require some difficult decisions. Hospitals would need to identify additional opportunities to deliver services more efficiently and/or generate additional incomes.

“Meanwhile commissioners would need to look at decommissioning other services.”

The Bedfordshire & Milton Keynes Healthcare Review began last year and will cost £3.2million. By 2023-24 the two areas are expected to have a combined funding shortfall of £210million, as well as a growing an ageing population to care for.

Health bosses hope to tackle the problem by ‘twinning’ A&E at Bedford and Milton Keynes hospitals.

Healthcare bosses will now draw up more detailed proposals before going to public consultation later this year,

Dr Nicola Smith, GP chair of MKCCG, said: “We are now starting to explore in much greater detail the implications of possible future ways of providing the healthcare services that our population will need.

“There was never going to be a quick fix to delivering sustainable services, which is why it is such a long and thorough process. We understand that it may be frustrating for some, but it is so important that we get this right.

“It’s also important to recognise that the needs of the patients and the public have been at the heart of the Review’s work to date and that will continue. No final decisions have been made and we will carry on listening to people’s views. ”


Why might A&E be downgraded at Milton Keynes Hospital?

Healthcare in both Bedford and Milton Keynes has a number of financial and clinical issues.

Milton Keynes CCG, which oversees healthcare in the city, will have a funding shortfall of £91million by 2023-24. Bedfordshire CCG will have a shortfall on £119million. The two hospitals will also have deficits, of £38million and £35million.

What would a downgraded A&E department mean?

Speaking last year to the Citizen, the former medical director of Milton Keynes Hospital, described any downgrade of A&E services at Milton Keynes as “sleepwalking into a catastrophic disaster”.

Dr Sandro Lanzon-Miller, who worked at the hospital for 19 years, added that such a change would “inevitably have a domino effect on the other major services”.

Is it possible that both hospitals will keep their full A&E departments?

Nothing is decided yet, and MPs in both Milton Keynes and Bedford have claimed they are confident of their local hospital not suffering a major A&E downgrade.

However the review is only looking at two options - a significant downgrade of A&E at Milton Keynes or at Bedford.

Didn’t the city’s MPs announce last week that they were hoping for a new £178million investment for MK Hospital?

They did. Hospital chief executive Joe Harrison qualified the news, saying it was likely so long as everything else “falls into place”.

This money is not for the new A&E which the Citizen has been campaigning for, but it would see A&E sitting side by side the Urgent Care Centre.