Hospital action group needed

THE original Huntingdon General Hospital was built in 1853, enlarged and altered many times – the large white building on the common near the railway station. In its later days it came under the control of the regional hospital board which chose the manag

THE original Huntingdon General Hospital was built in 1853, enlarged and altered many times - the large white building on the common near the railway station.

In its later days it came under the control of the regional hospital board which chose the managers from various sources. One was chosen from the county council, and I was surprised to be the one that was to serve.

In those days councillors were not paid, nor were the managers of the hospital, who numbered about eight, the chairman being a local doctor. The matron, who ran the hospital most efficiently, would tell us the various problems which she would like dealt with, most of which would have been brought to her attention by her dedicated staff.

I remember one problem - the door to the sluices opened the wrong way, and a nurse coming in laden with a bedpan could meet the door that was opened by someone coming out, with unpleasant results. There was another problem with the kitchens being too hot - they had been built over the furnaces, making even the refrigerators struggle. Without a lot of bureaucratic nonsense to conform with, we had these jobs carried out.

Over the years patients donated money and in some cases made bequests in their wills, being grateful for the care they had received. When the old hospital closed, the money that had been bequeathed by patients was lost in the coffers of the NHS.

With our new hospital, I would not be surprised if even the job of altering a door to the sluices would have to be submitted to countless consultants, managers and committees, probably even bringing in the Environment Agency.

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Drastic measures are needed to streamline and weed out all the unnecessary bureaucracy. This could well be done by a businessman who knew his business could not be kept afloat if he had staff serving no useful purpose.

When it was realised that the old hospital was well past its sell-by date, it was decided to close it and send everyone to Addenbrooke's.

Fortunately, under extreme pressures from many directions, a fine new hospital was built. It was well designed, giving it the feel of what I would describe as a friendly family-type hospital. It again has nurses and staff devoted to their job and there cannot be anything more unsettling for them than the present uncertainties.

The situation has not been helped by the fact that 9,224 patients failed to turn up for consultations and follow-up appointments. A consultation costs £120 and a follow-up £85. This does not include surgical procedures.

Figures are not available for those who failed to keep appointments for operations. A cancelled operation for a hip replacement costs £8,000 and, in spite of the fact that the patient is telephoned the day before to confirm, many fail to turn up. Hospitals are judged financially on the number of operations that have been performed and the number of consultations and, if it had not been for this problem, possibly these new measures would not have been contemplated.

The hospital could still be saved by a Friends of the Hospital association being formed where people offer donations. While the sum collected would hardly touch the amount the hospital is in debt, it would at least show our willingness to help and I would be prepared to start it off with £100, even though I am a BUPA member.

WB CARTER, Meadow Lane, Hemingford Abbots

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