Concerns raised over NHS merger for health services

L&D Hospital. Photo by Jane Russell
L&D Hospital. Photo by Jane Russell

A public governor of the Luton and Dunstable University Hospital has criticised the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) for Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes.

Jim Thakoordin, an elected member to the council of governors at the hospital, has raised his concerns about the plan ahead of the public meetings on Thursday.

L&D Hospital

L&D Hospital

Last year, NHS England outlined a new approach for health care providers to help ensure that services are planned by place rather than individual institutions. It means local health and care providers have been asked to work together in regional ‘footprints’ to produce a STP.

Twelve NHS organisations and four local authorities in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK) are working together to develop the STP for the area, linked to the five priorities local partners have identified. These are illness prevention and health promotion; primary, community and social care; secondary care; digital programme and demand management and commissioning.

Mr Thakoordin is concerned about the affect it will have on Luton residents, he said: “There will be rationalisation that could result in local people from each are travelling to another hospital other than their own to access services and support.

“I am also worried that some key staff will either leave the NHS; become redundant; become more stressed; and the services will become more difficult to access.

Jim Thakoordin is concerned by the Bedfordshire Luton and Milton Keynes Sustainability and Transformation Plan

Jim Thakoordin is concerned by the Bedfordshire Luton and Milton Keynes Sustainability and Transformation Plan

“I believe there will be a reduction in the number of beds, meaning patients may be forced to return home or in to a care home prematurely.”

The public meetings are on Thursday, March 9, at the Chiltern Hotel, Luton, from 10am till 12.30pm and from 6.30pm till 9pm. The meetings will be focusing on the latest thinking on the STP and the discussions will cover six key areas that the teams in Luton, Bedford and Milton Keynes have identified as those most under pressure and needing support.

Mr Thakoordin added: “It will create a far more bureaucratic framework that will be less democratic, accountable, transparent and efficient as far as the public are concerned.

“The structure will have one Chief Executive, a single Board of Governors and Executive Directors who will be extremely remote from the public.

“The public meetings are taking place when the STP plans are very much in place and lots of planning work is already taking shape. The consultation is inadequate given the importance of the matter.

“The public must not take our precious NHS for granted. The people knows what is best for them not the government or the STP.”

A spokesperson for Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK) Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) said:

“On Monday 6 March, we began the first in a series of events to gather views on how the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK) Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) could transform hospital-based care in the region.

“These events coincide with the launch of a discussion paper looking to gather views on how the three hospitals in BLMK can meet the challenges and pressures they currently face. The paper, called ‘Seeking your views on transforming health and care in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes’, sets out how, over the past few months, doctors, nurses and other specialist staff have been working together to consider how these challenges could be met.

“At this early stage we are keen to see what local people think of these ideas so we can incorporate public and patient views into our plans as they develop. No decisions have yet been made about how the BLMK STP will transform health and social care for the better, and this is a chance for local people to influence, inform and shape plans for the area – it is not a consultation.

“Should any major service changes or decisions that impact staff and patients be proposed as part of this process, the 16 BLMK partner organisations will consult with local people in order to reach the best outcomes for Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes.

“We will continue to be held to account by the public, including through elected governors at Luton and Milton Keynes hospitals and by elected members through the Local Authority democratic scrutiny process.

“As part of our developing plans, we will consider how strategic and operational leadership and management teams could work together across the three hospitals. Again, no decisions have been made and any proposals for change will be considered at meetings held in public.

“We are working hard to ensure the thousands of staff working in the health and care system locally are involved in and informed about plans as they develop. Speculation about jobs is just that, and is likely to fuel anxiety among staff at a time when no decisions have been made and plans remain in their early stages.”