Hinchingbrooke – the reponse of our readers

I WAS very surprised to see from your report that the strategic health authority was considering closing Hinchingbrooke Hospital, or greatly reducing its effectiveness, because of the predicted financial outcome in 2007. While the financial data are hard

I WAS very surprised to see from your report that the strategic health authority was considering closing Hinchingbrooke Hospital, or greatly reducing its effectiveness, because of the predicted financial outcome in 2007.

While the financial data are hard to follow and the real cause of overspending is uncertain, there seems to be a large element of robbing Peter to pay Paul in the calculations, and of poor financial planning at Government level.

Also, what a nonsense to hear the SHA spokesman say that without Hinchingbrooke there are more than sufficient hospitals in our region.

As we all know, the population and the industrial and commercial activity in our area have greatly increased and so, consequently, has the demand for medical services. Hinchingbrooke has responded by expanding the range and nature of those service and by new construction. In doing so, it has had the wholehearted support of the local community.

Our hospital is a highly valuable and much appreciated asset. No one should consider taking away or reducing its value.

What is needed are more sensible accounting and forecasting practices, and a much better appreciation of the cause and effect of the policies being considered.

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As I was chairman of the Hinchingbrooke Health Authority from 1981 to 1992, I can look back to more sensible times when we opened our new hospital, and were not thinking of closing it when the demand for its services greatly increased!

Air Vice-Marshal R BULLEN, De Vere Close, Hemingford Grey

* WITH the problems of the A14, shortages of beds in Peterborough, planned growth of the Huntingdon population, to name but a few, how can the regional SHA say that Hinchingbrooke should close.

Yes, it has financial problems, but where was the SHA when the new premises were being built. What happened to the patients that Addenbrooke's and Peterborough were supposed to release to Hinchingbrooke as per the business plans (something about a patient being worth £1,400 or so in funding)?

If these so-called regional SHA decision-makers were made responsible and held accountable for any deaths that could be averted by Hinchingbrooke remaining open, I bet we would not lose this vital local service.

Why are we paying the SHA fat salaries, if they only reduce the services available to our families?

What will be the cost in lives, as well as financial, of transporting people to other hospitals? We hear in the media that seconds are important in medical matters. So how can closing a town's hospital be good for our community?

I call on all citizens to stop the rot in Huntingdon and say no to the closure of Hinchingbrooke Hospital.

TERRY DOWNING, Ash Court, Brampton

* IN your typically poorly-researched and one-sided view of the current fiasco concerning Hinchingbrooke you completely fail to recognise that the NHS is delivering a better service throughout the UK than has been the case under any government since the founding of a state health service.

Clearly, savings have to be made and economies of scale have to be considered. Your reporter might have done well to have referred to the latest report of the Audit Commission which, in its considerations, clearly lays the blame at the door of "poor leadership, bad management and inadequate board members at both hospital and primary care level". Too many administrators have deluded themselves that things will get better by simply falling back on short-term fiddles to get themselves of the hook.

The potential overspends at Hinchingbrooke were identified over two years ago to the extent that the primary care trust loaned the Hinchingbrooke trust money just to get by. What sort of decision was that?

As regards the resignation of the CEO, any chairman of any public company would have been removed by the shareholders or non-executive directors for submitting such a terrifying report. Always remember - we, the public, are the shareholders in the NHS.

PHIL COLES, Westbury Rd, St Ives

* ON the subject of the threatened closure of Hinchingbrooke Hospital, you report the views of Jonathan Djanogly, which seem to be limited to his consultations with various health authorities and board members.

As our MP, he has right of access to the Health Secretary and, since it has been reported that hospitals in Labour constituencies will be protected at the expense of those in safe Tory seats, it is time that he exercised his political

position - and was seen to exercise that position - by demanding an explanation from Patricia Hewitt as to why one of the best and most efficient hospitals in the country should go to the wall for political reasons.

The population of Huntingdon is growing fast and Hinchingbrooke must be protected at all costs. It seems the chief executive of Hinchingbrooke would rather resign than implement what is clearly a politically motivated action. He puts Djanogly to shame.

FAY BOSSOM, Stukeley Meadows, Huntingdon

* I CAN'T think of anything more ludicrous than downgrading an excellent hospital. I don't know what planet they are on, but certainly not this one.

Perhaps they have never had to be treated at Hinchingbrooke. There is a lot to be said in having a local A&E department. Having to go to

Addenbrooke's, which would be the nearest for A&E, must surely be a threat to getting urgent treatment should the need arise.

The population of Huntingdon and surrounding areas is rising all the time, so it only makes more sense to keep Hinchingbrooke and upgrade it. So please think carefully, don't make a big mistake that cannot be rectified afterwards.

ANNE SOUTHWOOD, Corfe Place, Eynesbury

* THE appalling news about Hinchingbrooke Hospital prompts many questions, not least the role of the strategic health authority and its board.

The SHA's aims include improving access to services. Its non-executive directors - high-powered individuals appointed by the Secretary of State - are supposed to be the link with the community. Where are they and what have they to say?

Along with the full-time directors, they are responsible for policy. The media should not allow them to skulk in the shadows while the future of our highly-regarded and efficient local hospital is threatened.

Only last year they produced "A Vision for the Future", a health strategy document that promised to deliver healthcare services "more locally than before".

Their next board meeting is October 25. Until then they should be given no peace.

STUART LITTLEWOOD, St Ives Road, Hemingford Grey

* WHEN the local Tory agent pleads that he seeks no party political advantage from the current NHS review, we just have to suppress a smile.

Paid as he is to give voice to sentiments that are in no way a reflection of his or the local MPs' party policy this is hypocrisy of the highest order.

If a Tory government (God forbid) were reviewing the health service, this paid agent would be writing to you praising the wise and prudent steps they were taking in "setting the people free" or "cutting out the dead wood". We have been here before.

It must seem to many of your readers that the only people who know how to run the NHS are those who have nothing to do with it except criticise. That's life.

FRED TURPIN, Upwood

* AS a recent patient of the treatment centre at Hinchingbrooke Hospital, I found the treatment excellent.

It would be a tragedy if the powers that be cannot be made to see that small is beautiful. The Huntingdon area needs to maintain the first-class medical services we have at present. It would be a tragedy if local people had to be transported to either Addenbrooke's or Peterborough District.

Good luck with your campaign.

AUDREY V HURST, Lordsway Park Homes, Alconbury

* WE WISH to register our protest at the suggestion of downgrading or even closing Hinchingbrooke Hospital. It is absolute madness to reduce hospital availability in an area earmarked for growth. Lives will be put at risk and valuable services to the community lost.

Hinchingbrooke has proved it can be run efficiently, and it is a pity that the hospital's chief executive Douglas Pattisson has felt forced to resign after being instrumental in creating that efficiency and high standard.

We understand that Bedford and Stevenage hospitals are also under threat. This would leave thousands of us struggling to get into Cambridge.

We must unite to fight these closures.

JOHN PENN and SUSAN LITTLE, Lakefield Avenue, Little Paxton

* I HAVE spent two periods in eight months in Hinchingbrooke Hospital, where I received the best care anyone could wish for. I think it is a crying shame that such a wonderful hospital with fantastic staff should be put under such pressure as they are now. They need all their skills and patience to contend with their work without worrying whether their jobs are under threat.

Tony Blair, for goodness' sake get the NHS sorted.

IRENE ROSE, Great Stukeley

* HINCHINGBROOKE is an excellent hospital. Luckily I have not had to use it much, but both my late parents did.

If we had no hospital nearby, many lives would be lost because of the length of travel involved - also the cancer care, midwifery and coping with the loss of the elderly.

I feel so angry that many nurses and good staff have lost their jobs. We must all fight to save this hospital and it should not be downgraded at all.

BARBARA LEYLAND, Silver Street, Eynesbury

* I AM writing to protest at the proposed closing of the Hinchingbrooke Hospital, as I understand from January 2007, built at a cost of many millions of pounds.

This will cause hardship to patients in this district to get to clinics or visit patients at either Peterborough or Addenbrooke's, Cambridge.

I understand part may be kept on for dialysis patients, other parts being sold to BUPA.

G R BLACKMAN, Woodlands, Warboys

* I BELIEVE all residents of Huntingdon should join forces to make a united stand against any change to Hinchingbrooke Hospital.

A meddling Government and not very good management has put our hospital in the position it is in.

Some weeks back I read in The Hunts Post that it had been decided to spend £250,000 to hire consultants to sort out another problem, so what on earth are managers employed for?

H P LONG, Orthwaite, Huntingdon

* OF course Hinchingbrooke Hospital is in line for closure. We live in a solid Conservative area. Only hospitals in Labour marginals are safe.

MAL COHEN, Croftfield Road, Godmanchester

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