Health chiefs in spotlight

WITH the strategic health authority s interim report on Hinchingbrooke s future expected today (Wednesday), worried Cambridgeshire county councillors were due to quiz local and regional health chiefs this morning as The Hunts Post went to press. The count

WITH the strategic health authority's interim report on Hinchingbrooke's future expected today (Wednesday), worried Cambridgeshire county councillors were due to quiz local and regional health chiefs this morning as The Hunts Post went to press.

The county's health and adult social care scrutiny committee was due to discuss the hospital's financial situation and future services during a meeting at Huntingdonshire District Council's Pathfinder House headquarters.

Three top health officials were asked to attend - Jane Herbert, Hinchingbrooke Healthcare NHS Trust interim chief executive, the East of England Strategic Health Authority's director of commissioning Paul Watson, and Cambridgeshire Primary Care Trust's acting chief executive Chris Town.

Scrutiny committee chairman Councillor Geoffrey Heathcock, who admits he is deeply suspicious of the SHA's motives in selecting Hinchingbrooke for review outside the wider study of district hospitals in the region, said: "The future of Hinchingbrooke Hospital and the range of services it will continue to provide is of great importance to the local community in Huntingdon and the surrounding area.

"The scrutiny committee has rightly decided that it wants to take a very careful look at the current situation at the hospital - including the reasons for its financial position - and to gain a better understanding of what options are being considered for its future."

Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly is also less than impressed by the SHA's review strategy.

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"My understanding is that the SHA, which covers six counties, Bedfordshire, Cambs, Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Hertfordshire, is conducting Hinchingbrooke's review in advance of the rest of their catchment area, with the exception of Hertfordshire," he said.

"I find it hard to understand how this can be deemed a proper strategic review, considering the significant potential impact on neighbouring hospitals such as Addenbrooke's, Peterborough and Bedford.

"This leads me to believe that this could actually be a cost-cutting review than a strategic review.

"Should the SHA continue with its plans to review Hinchingbrooke in isolation? I believe not.

"The strategic review should be a review of the long-term local medical needs, not a short-term cost-cutting exercise."

At a special county council meeting yesterday, Brampton and Kimbolton Liberal Democrat Councillor Peter Downes, stressed the serious traffic consequences of moving medical services from Hinchingbrooke to Addenbrooke's.

"People tell us they dread the prospect of having to travel to Addenbrooke's for treatment. For those without cars, public transport is slow and erratic," he said.

"This will particularly affect the elderly, vulnerable and those on low incomes - all categories of people more likely to need hospital treatment.

"Patients having to stay in hospital will receive fewer visits from relatives and friends because of the deterrent effect of the journey, and this will adversely affect their morale and the speed of their recovery.

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