Bedford Hospital: seven-day service proposed following merger

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Bedford Hospital entrance

A consistent standard of health services, even at weekends, could be one of the benefits of a merger between two Bedfordshire hospitals, a meeting heard.

Formal confirmation of the link-up between Bedford Hospital and the Luton and Dunstable is expected by April.

“The merger does have financial benefits,” said Luton and Dunstable chief executive David Carter.

“But finance has never been the motivation for this,” he told a meeting of Central Bedfordshire Council’s social care, health and housing overview and scrutiny committee.

“Many health organisations are in financial difficulty,” he said.

“Bedford and the Luton and Dunstable are two of the better performing hospitals, so we start off from a good base.

“As our hospitals and our population have changed, there’s a real need to move to a seven-day service.

“This is so the services are exactly the same on a Saturday or Sunday, as they are on a weekday. That’s not the case at the moment.”

Bedford Hospital chief executive Stephen Conroy said that a full business case for merger was submitted on December 1.

“Our managing accountants have been looking at key risk issues for the boards,” he explained.

“We’ve also had a three-month process of engaging with NHS Improvement, which will approve the merger at some point in the future.

“It’s due to complete a report by the second week of February, which will go to the shadow board of the new organisation, Bedfordshire NHS Foundation Trust, later next month.

“There will be a national sign-off process during the first week in March, and we hope to formally announce the merger in the following week.

“In the worst case scenario, if more information or more assurance is required, there might be a two- or three-month delay.

“But, at the moment, we are fully expectant that we will hit all the milestones and form the new trust on April 1.”

Mr Carter confirmed the business case is being prepared for the £100m capital project for the Luton and Dunstable site, which could mean the work starts later this year.

“That £100m is to build a new block at the Luton and Dunstable to replace our maternity unit, our critical care unit, our neonatal intensive care unit and some of our old operating theatres, he said.

“The real work starts after April 1. We’re not expecting anything major to happen then, but the real process of integration starts.

“We are bringing two strong district general hospitals together. The core services will remain on both sites.

“We do want to see changes happen across this organisation. That is why we’re doing this merger. There will be a clinical integration process.

“This merger is all about getting the best out of our workforce across both sites,” he added.

“We have vacancies in almost all of our workforce groups, including doctors, nurses, sonographers and radiographers.”

by Local Democracy Reporter David Tooley