August Bedford Independent Column – Local Healthcare
Stalled discussions over the merger between Bedford Hospital and the Luton & Dunstable were revived at the start of August by a promise of investment.
It’s not hard to see why Prime Minister Boris Johnson would make such an announcement at this point – the threat of a vote of no confidence when MP’s return after the summer break looms, and giving money to hospitals might seem like a way to secure support from MPs.
But this is not a new pledge.
The money for this merger was bid for and promised a long time ago – it’s just that the treasury wouldn’t release it.
For Bedford Hospital, the announcement ends years of uncertainty, and will be good for staff morale and retention.
I am pleased that services will be retained at Bedford after what has been a long and hard-fought campaign, and I will hold NHS bosses to their promises to keep A&E, Maternity and Paediatrics at Bedford.
But these merger plans don’t offer much in the way of enhanced facilities for Bedford, with most of the capital earmarked for upgrades to the Luton site.
I now want to see real investment in our healthcare facilities locally; for a return of inpatient mental health beds, for better access to primary care and better facilities for our GPs, and for enough money to keep essential services like our hydrotherapy pool running.
It’s not just acute NHS services that will need extra cash if we are to tackle the burgeoninghealthcare crisis either.
If more money isn’t provided for social care, hospitals will continue to pick up the slack. Bedford Borough Council are particularly good at ensuring seamless transfers of care, but the system is undoubtedly struggling.
The workforce shortages we see throughout the health and social care system will significantly worsen if strict post-Brexit immigration rules force lower income workers to leave the UK.
If Boris Johnson is serious about our nation’s health, he’ll provide some genuinely new money for the whole system.
He’ll scrap his dangerous no-deal Brexit plans that further threaten the stability of our health and social care workforce and would likely disrupt medical supply lines.
And he’ll reverse short-sighted Public Health cuts so that people can be helped to live healthier lives. Prevention is not only better than cure, it’s cheaper. But perhaps he doesn’t think he’ll be PM for long enough to see the benefits.