STRUCTURE: A strategy for the future of acute and community care in Buckinghamshire and Berkshire has made no mention of Ascot’s Heatherwood hospital, which has already been dogged by closure fears.

The report, titled Care for the Future, aims to plug a £350m funding gap expected in the area’s health economy by 2013-14.

Published on 8 August, it followed nearly two years of work by Berkshire and Buckinghamshire primary care trusts, with the input of clinicians including GPs.

The report recommends making Stoke Mandeville, the Royal Berkshire and Wexham Park the “main acute sites for local people”.

Wexham Park Hospital is run by the Heatherwood and Wexham Park NHS Foundation Trust, which reported an “extremely adverse” financial trend in its board papers for July, with a budget deficit and overall spending levels both on the rise.

The report failed to discuss Heatherwood hospital, which currently hosts a range of services including diagnostics, a birthing centre, a minor injuries unit and an elective orthopaedics unit. A public meeting was last month held by local campaigners pushing for the hospital to stay open.

A trust spokeswoman was unable to say whether it would remain open.

Julie Burgess, chief executive, faced calls to resign in a series of anonymous comments posted on the HSJ Local website this month. “Heatherwood and Wexham Park has struggled [from] one disaster to the next ever since Julie Burgess took over”, one reader said. “It is about time the governors took action to remove her”.

However, others argued that the problem was more deep-seated and predate her arrival at the trust in 2009. “Blaming individuals is easy. Solving the health economy problems is where the energy needs to be focused,” said one.

The Care for the Future report also recommended that Wycombe Hospital should “continue to provide a range of general services”, and develop its specialisms. The hospital opened a new hyper acute stroke unit in June, and is in the process of developing a specialist cardiac services unit.

Amersham Hospital, which along with Wycombe and Stoke Mandeville is run by the Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, “should continue to provide a range of local services”, the report said. The 75-bed hospital specialises in rehabilitation and services for elderly people, and has a specialist dermatology unit.

The report also emphasises the need to develop “more innovative community based services”, “as a matter of priority”, while hospitals should work together to deliver services such as pathology and “low volume surgical specialities”. It said this means that the number of beds in hospitals should reduce.

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