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29th February 2012
The public consultation event in Wellingborough
Last Saturday saw me hosting the second of four deliberative events at Kents Hill Park, Milton Keynes.
We are involving as diverse a range as possible of people in the events, which are by invitation but there are lots of public meetings planned that will be open to all. They are aimed at sharing the case for change for NHS services in South East Midlands and the ways in which we hope local people will shape the process.
There was an excellent turnout at both sessions - the first was in Wellingborough on 11 February - with over 120 people participating altogether. They led to vibrant and lively discussions about the challenges our local hospitals face.
I opened proceedings by introducing the thinking behind Healthier Together, and some of the headline reasons why clinicians think we need to change. Sharing the programme structure, I highlighted that while clinical staff are leading the process, we are ensuring that local people have a voice in how any new proposals develop.
The level of knowledge already out there about why our health services need to adapt was striking. Participants cited reasons like people living longer, the growing population, mounting cost pressures from conditions like obesity and the constant advances in research leading to expensive new drugs and treatments.
There was a general consensus that services need to keep pace with new advances in medicine and technology, that the NHS needs to work ‘smarter’ and that we just can’t stand still. Healthier Together was described as a proactive approach to getting ahead of the game, with one participant asking, “Why hasn’t this been done before?”
Participants were asked to think about the six service areas earmarked for review (maternity, children’s services, planned care, cancer services, long-term conditions and emergency services) and to look at the clinical reasons being put forward for change. These have been drawn up by clinicians, who want local people’s input into the working groups. The ideas of providing more services in community settings like GPs’ surgeries and combining expertise across hospital sites were also debated.
So far feedback has been mostly positive, with the main point of concern centering on transport issues, should people have to travel further in the future for certain ‘one-off’ or more complex procedures.
The four deliberative events are a rich source of feedback and will result in an independent report that will help to shape progress with Healthier Together. They are just the start of an engagement approach that I want as many people as possible to participate in. Keep an eye on the website calendar of events, fill in our questionnaire and let us know your views in whatever way you can.
Steve Lowden lives locally and is Chair of the Healthier Together Patient and Public Advisory Group. Steve was Chief Executive of the national ‘health watchdog’ the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement from 2004 – 2008. The commission had a regulatory role, working with the then Healthcare Commission (now renamed the Care Quality Commission) to give citizens a voice in health-decision making throughout England.
No hospitals will close. Northampton, Kettering, Milton Keynes, Luton & Dunstable and Bedford will all continue to provide most local services
All five hospitals will have an A&E and maternity service
Our first priority is safe, sustainable, high quality services
Our recommendations will be based on clinical evidence and local need