NHS and community leaders in Milton Keynes are divided on whether health services in the city should exit a partnership with Bedfordshire and Luton after only two years.
In December the NHS nationally asked for a review of the case for moving the MK health system from a partnership including Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK) to another one with Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire (BOB).
A move to examine the case for change was supported by the MK Health and Wellbeing Board, which includes councillors, representatives of the health service, and MK Hospital.
However, the Board, which met on Wednesday (Feb 6), was divided on a decision that has been taken not to take the review any further.
A letter, sent by BLMK but involving BOB, reads: “On balance, we have recommended that rather than persist with looking at the case for a boundary change, instead the focus should be on clarifying those issues which the current configuration gives rise to for some partners and working through how best these can be mitigated or addressed, short of cultural change.”
The letter also pointed out that because there is such a difference of opinion, “the prospect of a consensus for any solution was remote.”
It added that if MK moved out of the partnership, it would mean Bedfordshire and Luton would need to become part of another strategic transformation partnership, which would be impossible within a short time frame.
Members of the Health and Wellbeing Board were divided on the issue of which solution would be in the best interests of the people of Milton Keynes.
On the one hand was Board vice-chairman, Bletchley-based GP Dr Nicola Smith, who chairs Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Board. Her opinion was that such a move would distract from important patient issues like children self-harming to concentrate on a matter of process.
Joe Harrison, chief executive of Milton Keynes University Hospital, sits on the other side of the fence. He said: “I find the principle of agreeing to the review and then unilaterally dropping it quite challenging.”
Many patients from Milton Keynes use health services in Buckinghamshire, so a move to BOB may be able to provide better services for them.
Supt Yvette Hitch, the police commander for Milton Keynes, said: “It should be about the impact on the residents of Milton Keynes.” She said ending the review in the manner it had been was a “cop out”.
Cllr Alex Walker, leader of the Conservative Group on MK Council, said he shared Yvette’s concerns, adding that “we still want to go ahead with the review.”
And Lib Dem leader Cllr Douglas McCall, said: “It looks like they have put it in the too difficult box, someone has said ‘I can’t be bothered’. It is a pathetic response, really.”
Cllr Alice Jenkins said she would be taking the issue to a council scrutiny committee that she chairs. “We will have a look at it,” she said.
The Board decided to circulate a draft letter to all members in an attempt to formulate a response.