Before we go any further, Happy New Year. I hope 2018 brings you joy and grace in equal measure. This month I am going to focus exclusively on a subject you’d expect a Member of Parliament to cover in these pages because there have, as you may have read, been significant developments of late around the future provision of local hospital services. What you won’t have read is a wholly accurate (or political free), precis of the actual position.
The long-term configuration of acute hospital services (ie; where we go when we’re seriously unwell) has been the subject of many reviews over many years. The Trust (HHFT) favour building a new Critical Treatment Hospital at Junction 7 of the M3 between Winchester and Basingstoke to centralise consultant-led specialisms including stroke, cardiology, emergency surgery and obstetrics.
For me as your MP, even though it would require serious compromise around Winchester Hospital and some very tough decisions, I was prepared to consider such a change. In more than seven years doing my job I have yet to meet a constituent who doesn’t want the right care, in the right place, with the best people, when they’re acutely unwell. To close myself off to the possibilities in this space would be falling well short of what you expect of someone holding my position.
Last month however, the commissioners (West Hampshire CCG) finally confirmed they do NOT support a new build. My hunch for some time now has been that this was likely their view and, while hugely frustrating, it at least gives us clarity. No deal with the CCG was always better than a bad deal which would have seen the piecemeal reconfiguration of services away from Winchester.
And, as I have consistently said, it’s important to understand what Winchester Hospital is now before we get worked up about its future. So, while ‘A&E under threat’ fits neatly into a lazy headline, it misleads and frightens people. I am clear the RHCH must retain a front door – let’s call that an emergency department – but only with safe and sustainable services behind. What goes on inside is far more important to me than what the sign says outside.
We have to maintain a sensible and balanced discussion about the future of acute care and we have to think of the bigger picture. I will be working closely with the Trust and its Commissioners this year to focus on securing the RHCH in the light of the CCG’s decision by supporting the local NHS to deliver its local plan and press for much needed capital investment on the Winchester site.
You can find more about my work, locally and in Westminster, online and my comprehensive health pages sit at www.stevebrine.com/prioritynhs
MP for Winchester, Alresford & Itchen Valley