Fresh fears over new hospitals review
A UNION is worried for the future of Lister Hospital after another review of services was announced which it believes could spell a new wave of closures. Hospital staff learned about the new threat after a watching a piece on BBC s Look East about the Ea
A UNION is worried for the future of Lister Hospital after another review of services was announced which it believes could spell a new wave of closures.
Hospital staff learned about the new threat after a watching a piece on BBC's Look East about the East of Eng-land Strategic Health Authority's (SHA) plans to reassess hospital services across its area.
The new Hertfordshire Primary Care Trusts has been asked to review the clinical and financial assumptions behind 'Investing In Your Health' - the strategy drawn up for re-organising health care services in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.
Peter Gibson, hospital spokesman, apologised to staff in an email saying it is not its practice for staff to learn about important issues through the media but it had been out of its control.
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Anne Wells, chair of Unison union's East and North Herts Staff Side, said: "It is extremely worrying that while we are in the grip of huge financial deficits we are to undergo another review.
"It would be interesting to know what this is costing as I am sure that we could find better use for the money, for example less job losses.
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"I only hope that this extra cost will not result in yet more job losses from the organisation which will have a huge impact on the care the patients receive, but who knows?"
The Guardian newspaper featured an interview with NHS chief David Nicholson yesterday (Wednesday).
In it he said the NHS is preparing for a wave of closures of key hospital departments in the run-up to the next general election.
Its aim will be to redesign the NHS by concentrating key services in fewer hospitals. Mr Nicholson said plans will affect every strategic health authority.
Talking about Mr Nicholson's comments, Mrs Wells said: "My personal belief is that this is probably what we are looking at [for our area] in the future."
North East Herts MP Oliver Heald described the review as "a sinister development, which means that even more cuts are being considered."
Hitchin MP Peter Lilley said the review should "send alarm bells" to everyone concerned about the future of Hertfordshire's hospitals.
He said it leaves the Investing in Your Health strategy and the prospect of a "super-hospital" at Hatfield looking doubtful.
Cllr John Gardner, chair of the Stevenage Partnership, said planned cuts to staff and services at Lister Hospital should now be delayed until the review is complete.
East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust's chief executive, Nick Carver, said : "It is very important that the outcome of the PCTs' review enables us to move forward towards delivering hospital services in a modern way as soon as possible."
Chief executive designate for Hertfordshire PCTs Anne Walker said the review would be an important examination of whether the acute hospital plans are clinically and financially sustainable.
She said: "I realise that this will cause concern to many people but it would be unwise not to take stock at this stage."
Jayne Ashworth, spokesman for the East of England SHA, said she could not rule out that hospitals could close as a result of the review.