Tory NHS cuts will slash local access to specialist care

Residents in Dunmow, Thaxted and surrounding villages could see local specialist care moved to Basildon under new plans.

The proposed Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP), which local health campaigners have dubbed “Slash, Trash, and Privatise”, will see Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford merged with the hospitals in Southend and Basildon.

All three hospitals will be combined into one organisation with one specialist service concentrated at one of the hospitals, most likely Basildon. The proposals come just months after Broomfield Hospital’s A&E department was saved from closure.

Local health campaigners will be protesting outside Waterstones Chelmsford (76 High Street, Chelmsford, CM1 1EJ ) from noon on Saturday against the plans:

Saffron Walden Labour health spokesperson Kevin Adair said: “The NHS in our area is stretched as never before. And yet the truth is that local services are being cut.

“In the future, if these proposed local hospital merger plans go ahead, patients and their loved ones face travelling long distances with no practical means of public transport.

“Anyone admitted to hospital requiring specialist treatment who lives anywhere in the local area from Chelmsford to Dunmow and Stansted will face the possibility of being transferred from Broomfield Hospital to Basildon. This is totally unacceptable.”

Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford is the nearest hospital for around 40% of the population of Saffron Walden constituency. Its future has a big impact on local health services.

Poor public transport links between Basildon and Dunmow and other parts of Saffron Walden constituency would also make it difficult if not impossible for patients and their relatives to get the specialist care they need.

If specialist emergency care was moved from Broomfield to Basildon, patients in Saffron Walden constituency will have to travel over 20 miles more for treatment. In Dunmow, the distance will be tripled from 11 miles to 33 miles.
Nearest A&E: blue = Broomfield, green = Princess Alexandra, orange = Addenbrookes. Source: NHS Direct

The move has no clinical basis and is driven by the government’s bid to slash £400 million from health budgets over the next few years. The Mid & South Essex STP’s consultation document talks about “closing our financial gap”, “address[ing] the financial challenges”, “to live within our means” and “more economical ways” to deliver local health services.

While Broomfield has been affected by the same A&E crisis seen across the UK, Basildon is adversely affected by Tory cuts with an A&E routinely on ‘black alert’. Campaigners have cast doubt on its ability to cater for additional demand on its services if it became the specialist emergency centre for mid and south Essex.