Dear local MPs,
You will be aware that as a result of Buckinghamshire not receiving adequate NHS funding, Marlow and Thame lost twenty overnight beds from the 1st April for the ‘community hubs’ ‘pilot’. These bed closures are already affecting people and are likely to be rolled out to our other community hospitals. Bed closures in the county will impact other hospitals in and around Bucks, this affects us all.
This letter is a request that local MPs get together and take swift action to ensure our NHS urgently gets the funding it needs and that those beds are reopened. We must stop ‘Sustainability and Transformation plans’ (STPs) which will result in more hospital downgrades, including ‘1 in 6’ A&Es. Steps also need to be taken to restore Wycombe hospital to a fully functioning one once more.
The community hospital beds closed at the start of this month without adequate public consultation. At the very least there should be a thorough consultation on the whole of our STP plan. Whilst other councils are putting the needs of their communities first and rejecting STPs, once again Buckinghamshire County Council’s health scrutiny committee have failed the population of Bucks with their lack of scrutiny, (having not even looked at basic documents like Equality Impact Assessments before the changes). In fact, this past year’s HASC webcasts contain some somewhat embarrassing content.
At a time when (due to billions of pounds worth of cuts) social care is struggling, and hospitals site missing targets due to ‘bed blocking’ these closures defy common sense. In HASC’s March discharge enquiry meeting, it was discussed that ‘there are not the care home places for people to go into’, and that ‘some care homes won’t accept council funded patients’ so it’s bizarre that there wasn’t more challenge to the plans. Worryingly, not all the community services will be in place for the start of the ‘pilot’.
We engaged fully with the ‘Community Hub’ sessions and bed closures weren’t explicitly discussed. Our petition against further downgrades reached its 1000 signature target in under two days. Our protest had a fantastic turn out.
These beds must be reopened quickly and the excellent staff teams redeployed.
Attached is an image of a child on a makeshift bed made of two chairs put together. It was taken at Stoke Mandeville just over a year ago, and whilst a difficult image to attach, was sent to local decision makers along with details of the experience. Unfortunately, nothing appears to have been done. We had a very difficult winter locally, with Stoke Mandeville in ‘Black alert’, requesting that patients who could go home to do so, and the John Radcliffe cancelling non-urgent operations.
The continued downgrade of the busy Horton General will increase the strain on Oxford’s John Radcliffe. As more housing is being built, including Aylesbury’s garden village, the strain on Stoke Mandeville is only set to increase. In the last couple of years, we have had fires at both Stoke and Wexham. Whilst these were dealt with quickly, they show a big flaw in mass centralisation of services. People have faced many difficulties since Wycombe lost Dr-led births, SCBU and our A&E (with associated wards/departments). Closing more departments/beds when they are overwhelmed and we have a growing population is unacceptable, and distance to services does make a difference. The UK already lags behind many countries in terms of bed numbers.
GP surgeries like Lynton must be given the resources to be open full time again and urgent action needs to be taken to ensure the recruitment, training and retention of staff. Step down wards like 5B should be reopened so that people on the health/social care borderline can be discharged when it is safe. Additional funding is needed for prevention and education, so that we can see the benefit later down the line.
Further hospital downgrades and dissemination of our NHS must be halted.
Buckinghamshire has received less funding for some time and is ahead when it comes to hospital downgrades/centralisation. Yet we are still expected to make millions of pounds of savings under the STP process?
Evidence shows that the NHS is the most cost effective, efficient health care system in the world. Whilst we continue to spend less of our GDP on health than our neighbours, I’m afraid concerns that the NHS is being deliberately set up for privatisation seem justified. Our last letter from the Department of Health mentioned £10bn going into the NHS however this has been disputed, including by the parliamentary Health Select Committee. There is evidence that investing in health results in economic growth 
A study at Oxford states that ‘30,000 excess deaths in 2015’ were ‘linked to cuts in health and social care’. 
It is time, as our MPs, that you truly champion our hospitals and NHS. I’m aware that an election has been called, but quite frankly this can’t wait until July/September and beyond.
On behalf of concerned residents of Buckinghamshire,
Miss Ozma Hafiz