HEALTH bosses have refused to confirm the future of Winchester’s A&E as plans move forward to centralise hospital services in north and mid-Hampshire.

Concerns have been raised about the emergency facilities at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital (RHCH) after it was decided that a plans for a new £150m critical treatment hospital of junction 7 of the M3 would be shelved, in favour of alternative centralisation proposals.

Last week, the boards of the North and Mid Hampshire Clinical Commission Groups (CCG) approved recommendations to scrap the new hospital plans as they were deemed “unaffordable”.

But the facility, which would have seen Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT) A&E and critical care services between Winchester, Andover and Basingstoke, was supported by the trust.

Alex Whitfield, HHFT chief executive, said: “We are naturally disappointed that the recommendation to the commissioners’ meeting is not to consult with the public on a critical treatment hospital at this time.”

Ms Whitfield added: “We know we are going to have to do something to continue to provide great care.

“We believe the proposed build site at junction 7 would have been ideal. It would enable our staff to focus on dedicated care.

“HHFT demonstrated that this was affordable; how come that [business case] said we can pay for it but this says we can’t?”

The meeting heard that the figures for the expected demand over the life of the new hospital differed between the trust and the CCG report, which changed the financial analysis considerably.”

As well as confirming that the plans will be shelved, the boards voted to continue developing proposals for the centralisation of HHFT health care services, including “exploring any necessary capital development to support relocation of services”.

When asked by campaign group Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Defend Our NHS Campaign to confirm the future of an A&E at the RHCH, health bosses said a decision could not be made yet.

Heather Hauschild, chief officer at West Hampshire CCG, told board members: “There is still work to do, so we are not at a stage where we can say what it will look like.

“We hope that we would be able to conclude by the end of February.”

The decision has been met with fear from campaigners fighting to keep an A&E in Winchester.

A spokesman for the Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Defend Our NHS Campaign told the Hampshire Chronicle: “We feel the public in Winchester and the surrounds need to be made aware that their A&E is under serious threat of closure.

“These joint boards have now given themselves the task to, by the end of February, without public consultation, work further on refining their case for these changes.

“Today’s meeting decided against a new hospital, which they themselves recognised as clinically to the good of the public, was unaffordable. Yet again our underfunded, understaffed and overstretched NHS is told that what is good is unaffordable.”

However, Winchester MP Steve Brine said: “The RHCH must retain a front door, let’s call that an emergency department, but it can only do so with safe and sustainable services behind. What goes on inside is far more important than what the sign says outside.

“As I have repeatedly said, it’s important to understand what Winchester Hospital is now before we get worked up about its future.”

Mr Brine added that he would be working closely with HHFT in the future to ensure there is “appropriate consultant-led cover in the city”.

Work will be carried out by HHFT to review the care services at its three hospitals with the aim of developing new proposals by the end of February to reconfigure services, with a board meeting in March to consider the options.

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