Health chiefs insist that Milton Keynes will stay with Bedfordshire and Luton

Moves to look at taking Milton Keynes out of a health partnership with Bedfordshire and Luton have been killed off by NHS chiefs.

Councillors in Milton Keynes had wanted to take a look at the possibilities of moving the city into a partnership with Buckinghamshire and West Berkshire instead of the current arrangements.

Generic hospital picture

Generic hospital picture

Some councillors think it would make sense to take MK out of the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK) Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) and put the city in with Buckinghamshire and West Berkshire (BOB) because of the other hospitals that they use for treatment.

While Bedfordshire patients might look to Cambridgeshire and London for specialist services, some patients in Milton Keynes travel out of the city to Oxfordshire and beyond.

A row blew up earlier this year when councillors at the Milton Keynes Health and Wellbeing Board were told a review of the boundaries had been brought to a sudden halt. Members of the board were not happy with the reply they had been given.

And on Monday (March 25), Milton Keynes Councillor Alice Jenkins took a chance to grill Richard Carr, of BLMK, and Fiona Wise, of BOB, at a meeting of the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

“Having agreed a process, it was then circumvented, and my worry is that this can happen again. What reassurances can you give that it won’t happen again?” said Cllr Jenkins.

Mr Carr denied any processes had been avoided. “All the chief executives were updated,” he said. And he added that both NHS England and NHS Improvement had wanted a review carried out in a matter of weeks.

He said when it became clear that the task would be a huge one, with implications that would take much longer to consider than a couple of weeks, it was decided not to proceed.

“Wherever you draw boundaries there are issues, it is the same for all STPs,” said Mr Carr, who went on to say that cross border issues would be looked at. He added the approach would be based on ‘places’ and services built from the grassroots.

He said the boundaries issue had the potential to distract from other vital issues.

But Cllr Jenkins said: “While you are talking the talk about a place-based approach, what is coming across is that it is top down. It’s good to talk the talk but what evidence is there that Milton Keynes’ interests aren’t going to be overruled again and branded too complicated.”

But Fiona Wise, of BOB, said boundary issues are “about bureaucracy” when issues such as the growth agenda needed time to consider.

“The roads being planned will make it easier for the population to make different hospital choices,” she said.

And Mr Carr added: “How we mitigate that is a really important issue.”