Milton Keynes health services to be managed from London

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DISABLED and mental health patients in Milton Keynes are set to see the management of their care moved – to London.

NHS Milton Keynes announced last week that care controlled by Milton Keynes Community Health Services, which also include adult care, children’s services, dentistry, diabetes and end of life care, would be run by Central and North West London (CNWL) NHS Foundation Trust as of April 1 next year.

The move comes despite the efforts of city MPs Mark Lancaster and Iain Stewart who had opposed the move.

The pair, along with bosses at Milton Keynes Council, had favoured the preservation of a local service, which would have seen community health services fall under the legal authority of Milton Keynes Hospital.

For 10 years, Milton Keynes Community Health Services has worked with Milton Keynes Council to provide health services through integrated budgets and teams.

But earlier this year the Strategic Health Authority ruled out plans to move these services to the hopsital Trust.

Until November 2011, MKCHS worked independently to MK Primary Care Trust. At that stage, in line with Government policy to create commissioning only PCTs, it transferred under the legal umbrella of Bedford Hospital NHS Trust.

At the time, moving the service under the power of Milton Keynes Hospital had been avoided because of financial problems there. But with the one-year deal with Bedford Hospital ending, it had been hoped MKCHS could now be brought under MK Hospital.

But bosses at the SHA had other ideas, with plans to put the hosting of the services out to competitive tender within the NHS.

Despite objections raised in Parliament by Mr Stewart and Mr Lancaster, that course was persued with Central and North West London winning the bid.

It means the integrated model of health services in MK will be lost.

MP for Milton Keynes North, Mr Lancaster, said: “Iain (Stewart) and I pressed for a local solution and that is one we would have both preferred.

“This was an open process and CNWL were clearly the best placed to deliver services in the future. It is not what I would have liked to have seen but we will now work with them to deliver the best possible service.

“I will hope to arrange an early meeting with representatives from the CNWL to see what their plans are for the future of the service for the good of patients in the city.”

His words were echoed by MK Council Cabinet member for health, Councillor Debbie Brock.

She said: “We were initially disappointed that we couldn’t persue a local solution of integrated care. However, now our commitment is on making sure services can continue as they always have with people getting the right care in the right place.

“We have to be focused and make sure the services we already have are preserved.”

And Labour parliamentary spokesman for Milton Keynes, Andrew Pakes, said his party were also disappointed by the decision to move away from a local solution.

But he added that he was pleased to see community health services remain within the NHS.

“Central and North West London NHS Trust has a good reputation,” he said.

“They do, however, need to reassure patients and staff that any efficiency savings will not be at the expense of local services.

“The NHS is under huge pressure following a real terms cut in spending and threats to local services due to the Government’s controversial reforms. I am sure that the council will be looking to ensure that we continue to get the best quality services in the city.”

The move was welcomed by managers within the health service.

Managing Director of MK Community Health Services, Cathy Walker, said “I am very pleased that CNWL has been identified as the preferred acquirer. My knowledge of CNWL is that it is a highly regarded, high performing organisation with a similar vision and values to those of MKCHS.

“We look forward to developing relationships with our new colleagues, promoting our services, and working together to build on the high quality services we provide to thousands of people across Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire.”

Jeannie Ablett, the chief officer for NHS Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group, said the evaluation process placed patient care, experience and outcomes at the heart of its decision, while chief executive of NHS Milton Keynes, Jane Halpin, said she felt CNWL were well placed to deliver good quality community health and related social care services.

Chief executive at CNWL, Claire Murdoch, said commissioners, patients, staff and stakeholders would have a ‘stronger voice’ as to how they want services to be managed as CNWL is a Foundation Trust.

She said: “We know that excellent work has already been carried out in Milton Keynes to improve these services, but we also recognise the hard work ahead to ensure there is a smooth transition that is to the benefit of local people and staff.”