Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Following Monday?s (28th January) workshop on the Herts & South Beds Acute Services Review, Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, expressed “profound concern about its implications?.

    Peter Lilley went on to say: “The Report makes it clear that they want to close at least two of Hertfordshire?s four remaining Accident & Emergency units ? downgrading the hospitals to ?Diagnostic and Treatment Centres?. These might have beefed up versions of the minor injuries unit currently at St Albans but would only open up to 14 hours per day. The oral briefing made it clear that those behind the Review would like to end up with just one full A&E and Acute Services Hospital in Hertfordshire (plus Luton & Dunstable in South Bedfordshire). Their ideal would be a single Hertfordshire Superhospital on a new site ? possibly Hatfield Aerodrome ? and would also have a specialist Cancer Unit (replacing Mount Vernon) alongside. But Ministers rejected a new Superhospital last time on grounds of cost, time and upheaval. If two A&E hospitals remain it was clear that Hemel would be most likely to be downgraded and QEII could well suffer the same fate. This would be unacceptable to people in Harpenden, St Albans, Redbourn, Sandridge and Wheathampstead who would have to travel to Watford, Luton or Stevenage for serious Accident & Emergency care.

    “I was very unhappy with the whole approach ? as were most of the other MPs. I believe my constituents will judge any proposals by three criteria: will they improve health outcomes for patients? Will they increase capacity so that waits for operations and delays in A&E are reduced? Will they make access to hospital services easier or more difficult and distant?

    “Amazingly the eight criteria set out by the Review did not mention patients, capacity or ease of access at all!

    “The NHS managers argue that further centralisation into ever bigger hospitals will improve quality of care. I argued that we should not accept further mergers unless and until we have evidence that previous mergers (like that between St Albans and Hemel) have improved health outcomes as we were promised. I have asked for such information in respect of Hemel for 10 years without success. And I have asked ministers to commission a study of similar mergers nationwide, but they refuse. Significantly, it was admitted at the meeting that continental countries do not seem to be merging hospitals to achieve their better health outcomes.

    “I shall be co-operating with local MPs, regardless of party, to ensure that we do not proceed down this route without convincing evidence that the three criteria of improved patient care, increased capacity and ease of access are met