SOS: The gloves are off

TODAY The Comet launches its campaign to save Lister Hospital s services. Following the announcement in November by the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust that plans for a new super-hospital at Hatfield were being thrown on the scrapheap, acute hospit

TODAY The Comet launches its campaign to save Lister Hospital's services.

Following the announcement in November by the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust that plans for a new super-hospital at Hatfield were being thrown on the scrapheap, acute hospital services will be centralised on a single site.

This means that either Lister or the QEII at Welwyn GC will become the Trust's main hospital site and will receive a cash boost of around £200m.

The other hospital will be left with just basic services including a scaled down A&E, outpatients, blood tests and X-rays.


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The decision, expected towards the end of 2007, will shape the future of health services in this region.

The Comet is backing the Lister and believes the Stevenage location is the more promising of the two

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* The site is easily accessible and better placed on the road network (close to the A1).

* It is a more modern site.

* It has more space around the hospital which could be used for expansion.

* There is more car parking space.

* The proposed West of Stevenage expansion means a large influx of people into the area.

Earlier this year the Trust's former sterile services depart-ments were merged into a single £2.7m expanded service based at Lister and we believe that the acute hospital services should go the same way.

Our campaign is backed by Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden.

He said: "I share my constituents' concerns about the future of the Lister and welcome the Comet campaign.

"The Trust clearly needs extra resources if it is to maintain existing services let alone enhance them."

Explaining the need for change, Nick Carver, the Trust's chief executive, said: "Acute hospital services in East and North Hertfordshire are stretched across two ageing hospital sites. This makes it difficult for staff to provide state-of-the-art medical care."

According to Mr Carver, changes will affect a number of services including maternity units on each site which, between them, support nearly 5,500 births a year.

Although good, the units are too small to meet recommendations by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives.

Mr Carver said: "By having in-patient services on one site we can have a midwifery-led service alongside a consultant-led service."

This will give more women a range of birthing options.

Other changes include the need to have A&E services close to specialist cardiac facilities, which could save the lives of more heart attack patients.

Mr Carver also spoke of the need for quality facilities rather than just how close patients are to their hospital.

He said: "We should ask not just 'how far away is the nearest hospital' but 'what facilities and expertise does the service have?'

"By bringing our two A&E departments together and with investment from the primary care trusts in local urgent care centres the Trust will provide better emergency care in the future."

It is expected that the Trust will make a recommendation to the East and North Herts PCT in January 2007 and this will then go out to public consultation in early spring. This is likely to finish in about June and then the PCT expects to make a recommenddation around July.

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