• NHS England and Bedfordshire CCG to “refresh” a review of “fragile” clinical services at Bedford Hospital Trust
  • Follows multiple reviews into the trust, which included recommendations to cease obstetrics and some emergency services
  • Closure recommendations appeared to have been scrapped altogether last year, as the trust announced plans to merge with neighbouring FT

NHS England and local commissioners want to look again at “fragile” clinical services run by Bedford Hospital Trust – less than a year after the provider committed to retaining its emergency and obstetrics departments.

BHT has been the subject of multiple sustainability reviews in recent years, including one conducted in conjunction with Milton Keynes University Hospital Trust which recommended that Bedford cease providing obstetrics and some emergency services.

These recommendations were shelved, however, in favour of dealing with reconfiguration as part of the local “sustainability and transformation partnership”.

They were then scrapped completely when merger plans were announced between BHT and Luton and Dunstable University Hospital Foundation Trust in 2017.

A statement from the two trusts at the time said: “Key services such as A&E, consultant led maternity services and children’s services will remain at both hospitals”.

But a letter sent by Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group to local partners in May, which has been leaked to HSJ, said a review of “sustainable/fragile services” carried out in October 2016 is now being “refreshed” following an agreement with NHS England.

The 2016 review was never made public so it is not clear what it recommended.

The letter said the three CCGs in the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes STP would “compile a single acute services strategy”, which “would need to take account of challenges associated with vulnerable specialities, efficiencies of scale, locations, quality standards and the benefits to patients to be realised across all the three acute providers”.

The new review will be led by Anne Murray, director of nursing and quality at Bedfordshire CCG, who also compiled the 2016 report. The letter added that the work will be completed with “a view to updating the risk assessment in the expectation that action has been taken in the intervening months”.

BHT told HSJ it is still committed to retaining obstetrics and emergency services in Bedford.

The letter comes after delays to the planned merger between BHT and LDUH, which is now being planned for April 2019.

A spokesman for the CCG said it is working with BHT’s medical director to “revisit and update” the previous review, and that NHS England had requested that the “routine update” reflects the work of the wider health system.

Milton Keynes, the other acute provider within the STP, recently revealed plans for a “stronger collaboration” with Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust, which is in a neighbouring health economy.

The news comes as local councils involved in the STP are threatening to quit as they feel their views are being “overlooked” by health commissioners.