Dear Rt. Hon Philip Hammond,
Congratulations on your appointment to Chancellor of the Exchequer. We have a petition of over 12,000 signatures addressed to you to the following text:
“We ask you to ensure that Buckinghamshire not only receives the national average in funds, but we also receive enough public funding so that key services are restored to Wycombe Hospital.
For a substantial amount of time now, Buckinghamshire has received less funding per capita than most of the country for our hospitals. This ‘cash-starving’ or ‘squeeze’ contributed to downgrades at Amersham and Wycombe hospitals and our Trust has recently been in ‘special measures’.
Since the downgrades at Wycombe hospital, many people have suffered and neighbouring hospitals have been overwhelmed.
Staff, patients and their loved ones deserve better.’’
Please note the following.
This petition is endorsed by many celebrities, has regional support, has received support from an array of politicians, and staff from neighbouring hospitals are rooting for it to do well.
High Wycombe, a town with good motorway links, has a population of over 170,000 and with new housing being built, the population in Buckinghamshire is set to rise. Chiltern CCG commission services for 320,000 people and yet within that we don’t have our own A&E, full maternity and children’s services. A recent ‘federation’ with neighbouring Aylesbury CCG doesn’t appear to have resulted in plans to restore services, in fact it is feared that our county will lose more NHS services including GP surgeries, under ‘Sustainability and Transformation plans’. These plans are a result of the NHS being forced to make £22 billion worth of efficiency savings. I’m sure the fact that we are campaigning 10 years on from when downgrades began to our hospital, speaks volumes about the direction the NHS is headed with more A&E and maternity closures expected across the country. These services may be considered expensive, however they are also vital. We understand that private companies aren’t interested in running services which they cannot profit from, and a pressured, cash-strapped NHS is having to close these services down, as is evident from the number of hospital campaigns that now exist and the STP plans that have been published.
It is hard to accept these downgrades when we spend less of our GDP on health than our neighbours, and below the OECD average, with better outcomes (Independent Common Wealth Fund report). According to the Kings Fund, as a proportion of GDP, funding will fall to 6.6 per cent compared to 7.3 per cent in 2014/15. But, if spending kept pace with growth in the economy, by 2020/21 the UK NHS would be spending around £16 billion more than planned .
There is also evidence that investing in health results in economic growth .
Since downgrades at Wycombe Hospital, many have reported having to take extra time off work, be it to attend appointments for themselves or to visit loved ones in hospital. Some already commute to their place of work outside of our county. It could be argued that the extra distance caused by loss of local health services is negatively impacting the economy, both by additional time taken off work and the health strain it is having on patients and loved ones. For some, distance to services can result in extra days needed for recovery.
Last year Healthwatch reported that for many residents, the stress, anxiety and cost associated with getting to appointments has become a major issue.
HS2 construction is likely to cause congestion on an already difficult journey to our neighbouring A&E Stoke Mandeville. Many in our locality feel the money could be better spent, for example on improving the current rail network and on our NHS.
The main route to Stoke Mandeville Hospital was flooded in 2014. Recent fires at both this hospital and neighbouring Wexham Park, whilst dealt with quickly, also demonstrate a flaw in mass centralisation of services.
A strong economy needs a strong NHS. If we keep people well and reduce the additional burdens that distance to services causes, people can contribute more to the economy. Please invest more in health by providing our local hospital with the money required to return it to a fully functioning one once more, and protecting other NHS services by providing the much needed funding to maintain them. Whilst the NHS isn’t perfect, it is the most cost-effective and efficient health service in the world. It is clear that the £10 billion figure mentioned to us in a recent letter from the Department of Health, simply is not good enough.
We look forward to your response.
Miss Ozma Hafiz