As our Buckingham Community Hospital campaign comes to a close, we look back on how it all began, reveal the final results of our survey and share an important announcement from the Town Council.
Concerns were initially raised among town councillors and campaigners in May when the Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust (BHT) announced at the Health and Social Care (HASC) meeting that a new care in the community scheme would be launched in the town.
While the utility of the so-called community hubs are not currently being questioned by this paper, we became aware that many people felt the scheme had been used as an excuse to close overnight hospital beds in Marlow and Thame without any consultation of the public – in fact it seemed that the hub consultations were being falsely used as evidence that the public wanted the overnight beds to close, when in reality they were never mentioned at the meetings.
Since then, this paper has been trying to get answers from BHT as to how they justified their actions in Marlow and Thame, which led to protests and an online petition of approximately 3,500 signatures, and what their plans mean for Buckingham.
Our efforts culminated in a meeting with BHT representatives which quickly went off the rails. We were left with the impression that they were being deliberately evasive and somewhat less than sympathetic for the concerns of the community.
It was at this point that the paper decided we needed to take the lead and ask the people of the town what they wanted.
As has been previously reported, the response to our campaign has been way beyond what was anticipated and speaks volumes for the community spirit in the town and the strength of feeling regarding the hospital.
In line with this, we received the fantastic news this week that Buckingham Town Council passed a motion on Monday evening officially supporting our campaign.
Councillor Ralph Anthony, who brought the motion, said:
“It is not unreasonable to ask for answers about the future of the services provided by Buckingham Community Hospital. Once services are removed, experience tells us they are rarely reintroduced. Buckingham is growing and we will need more services in the future, not less.”
Pointedly, Councillor Lisa O’Donoghue added:
“Elderly patients who are only given two options; stay in the main hospital or go home, will choose home, but those who are given a third option to stay in a local community hospital will choose this because they will be in a safe place but ‘home’. This is what the Trust isn’t getting.”
Clearly many people in Buckingham agree with the councillor. At the final count we had received 1,914 people inform us via postal vouchers, petition signatures and online survey that they wish to keep the overnight beds at Buckingham Community Hospital.
This paper strongly believes that the fact that such a significant proportion of the community felt moved enough to respond to our campaign, including over 150 people who physically cut out the voucher and posted it to us, many with accompanying letters of support, ought to send a powerful message to the Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust.
In light of the feelings in the town as revealed by our campaign, it is essential that the BHT is fully transparent regarding its plans for the Community Hospital going forward. It must consult the public regarding potential changes to their hospital and explain its reasoning behind key decisions it wishes to make.
The Advertiser will be delivering the findings of this research to Bucks Healthcare - and will keep you informed of their response.
Thank you very much to everyone who took part - the strength of community feeling on this issue has been outstanding.
You can email your views to firstname.lastname@example.org