No expansion in Hunts without infrastructure

AS a retired consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist and international businessman, it is with mixed emotions that I greet the massive housing proposals put forward for our region.

On the one hand such large scale demographic changes will lead to more job creation in our Huntingdonshire and overall prosperity. London, the economic capital of Europe, is in close proximity to Huntingdonshire, and it makes sense to capitalise on this.

However there is no doubt in my mind that currently we are unable to support the required infrastructure for such an ambitious and worthwhile project.

I was gratified to read in last week’s Hunts Post that significant amounts of finances have been earmarked for our region’s education. However this is not enough.

Hinchingbrooke Hospital has been a failing hospital for several years now, thanks to a series of seemingly appalling managerial decisions that date back to the late 1990s.

When I first joined the consultant staff at the hospital in 1994, the future looked very promising: quite a number of consultants with excellent qualifications and expertise in several specialist fields had been appointed, with the result that specialist medical services were available on site, the local population being served locally, obviating referrals to distant and hard-to-get-to places such as Cambridge.

Under the guise (misinterpretation) of government directives, which recommended centralisation of medical specialities in regions where they did not exist, our very capable hospital was gradually and systematically dismantled in favour of centralisation to Cambridge.

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In my speciality, gynaecological cancer, some 15,000 Huntingdonshire residents had signed a petition for the existing services to be kept at Hinchingbrooke. This clearly did not tally in with the local managerial plans.

What followed was ‘witch hunt’ that discredited the local service providers. Several consultants with excellent specialist skills were coerced to leave or were suspended. The loss of specialist expertise meant that the overall acute services at the hospital, such as its quality intensive care provisions, were irrevocably damaged. The hospital’s status was inevitably demoted to that of an Addenbrooke’s satellite.

From a very promising acute hospital it has been demoted to a cottage-like institution, subservient to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, over a period of five years. It will require a lot of dedication and probably several years to ‘re-invent the wheel’ as far as our local hospital is concerned.

Government statistics do not lie. It is no secret that Hinchingbrooke Hospital has been singled out as one of the country’s worse performing hospitals in recent years.

Now it enjoys the dubious honour of being one of the first NHS hospitals to have been privatised in the UK. For the better? I have my doubts.

A friend of ours recently had a knee replacement at Hinchingbrooke. Despite being a widow with no home support, she was sent home four days later with little follow-up. Her pain was poorly controlled and convalescence was an uphill struggle.

Now retired from medicine, I am facing a bleak reality: when I retire from business, will the community in which I have chosen to spend the rest of my life be adequately served from a medical as well as a broader point of view?

A lot of work is needed - if we are to add all these residents to our area, we need to upgrade our dismantled hospital, as well as improve our roads and public transport. The Huntingdon ring road suffers regularly from congestion; I have seen ambulances been delayed there on more than one occasion. The A14 to Cambridge (and the M11 to London, consequently) often experiences substantial delays.

All these issues must be adequately addressed. Only then can we fantasise about mega-expansion.


Silver Street