Heatherwood and Wexham NHS Trust closure/merger Update

Another battle lost?

Heatherwood and Wexham NHS trust is the next door trust to Ashford and St. Peter’s. I know it well; my parents off and on were patients there. Once all the hospitals in the group were all separate ‘town’ hospitals but they got merged together into one big trust – for ‘efficiency’.

Now it’s bankrupt, losing money every year. The solution is the same old one. You cut services and merge units and then hope to free up the most valuable premises to sell them off to plug the gaping hole in the accounts.

So, for much of this year there has been a lively local campaign winning over 25000 petitioners trying to save Heatherwood Hospital.

This Hospital was set up during the First World War to rehabilitated wounded soldiers. It was built in the country and actually encloses an ancient Tumulus from the Stone Age and a small group of trees. It’s pretty, a good place to be.

In the 1930’s it was converted into a TB hospital. In an age before anti-biotics it was thought that country air would cure TB. It’s still constructed with separate wards, joined by open air, roofed ‘corridors’ lined with glass for the TB patients to be moved to the sun.

The tragedy is that it became part of a bigger group with financial problems. The battle has been to prevent the closure of its Minor Injuries Unit (which in turn replaced its Accident and Emergency when that was shut).  Unfortunately, that will go to Bracknell.

Maternity goes and also the valuable Rehabilitation Unit – where my mum in her late 80’s stayed getting well enough to go home after breaking her ankle. It will become the base for the unit which gets elderly people home earlier.

Of course, everyone knows this is just the preliminary to shutting the whole hospital and selling off the valuable land (keeping a small building to do expensive private work for the wealthy of the area).

The problem the campaign always had was that Slough (where Wexham is) was never sympathetic to wealthy Ascot. Yet it was Slough patients who got to benefit from the hospital in the country.

Now the next plan is to merge the whole trust with Frimley, which is on the other side of Ashford and St. Peter’s. You can expect even more closures and longer journeys for treatment.

If I was in St. Peter’s I’d start worrying that this ‘super trust’ would have its eyes on gobbling up Ashford and St. Peter’s as well and having a real carnival of cuts. I’m not even going to start guessing at which hospitals could go – I don’t want to give anyone ideas.

The local campaign fights on but the Council has given up and is supporting the merger plans.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

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