WINCHESTER politicians have reacted to the news that the Royal Hampshire County Hospital A&E department could close under new plans.

As previously reported, the closure would be part of the plans for a new specialist acute hospital on the edge of Basingstoke, using more than £800m in government funding.

Under the plans, the RHCH, on Romsey Road, would be refurbished and a 24/7 urgent treatment centre opened.

Although the current A&E would close, many services will be retained including same-day emergency care, a planned surgery centre, Florence Portal House birthing unit and outpatients. The birthing unit would be midwifery not consultant-led.

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The potential closure of the A&E unit has been discussed for many years. In the past senior clinical staff have said they struggle to find enough staff for A&E units in both Basingstoke and Winchester.

Reacting to the news, Winchester MP Steve Brine said: “Modernising services across a Trust will always come with hard choices about clinical priorities, what goes where and have impact elsewhere.

Hampshire Chronicle: Steve Brine MPSteve Brine MP (Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA)“If the ICB decide to proceed to consultation with the proposals it will consider at its’ meeting on December 6, those choices will be right in front of us.

“Winchester is a fast-growing city and I want to see A&E services maintained as they are today plus full consultant-led maternity services on the RHCH site. If the clinicians, who must ultimately decide, feel things can be changed in a way that provides safe and sustainable services for my constituents it’s up to them to make the clinical case.”

Cllr Martin Tod, the leader of Winchester City Council, said at a full meeting of the council on Thursday, November 30: “Like many local residents, some of what’s being reported leaves me really concerned. If all we get is the headline of ‘closing A&E’ that’s not acceptable.

“The statement that’s been issued says that Winchester will get ‘24/7 urgent treatment and a same day emergency care service’, but it’s not saying what this means.

Hampshire Chronicle: Cllr Martin Tod, leader of Winchester City CouncilCllr Martin Tod, leader of Winchester City Council (Image: Contributed)“The City Council has been asking for guarantees on this point for some time and we will continue to do so.

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“The other concern I have is that services will be allowed to decline, and staff be left in limbo, while the NHS and Government grind through the bureaucracy needed to decide on, design and build a new hospital in Basingstoke and refurbish Winchester. This mustn’t drag on. A big promise to deliver a better hospital in several years’ time is no use to us if we don’t have the services we need now.”

Cllr Tod confirmed at the meeting that the Health and Environment policy committee will hold a meeting at the end of January to consider the details of the proposals, with a presentation from the hospital team.

Danny Chambers, the Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Winchester, said: “For too long Winchester’s health services have been neglected and overlooked by this Conservative government.

Hampshire Chronicle: Danny ChambersDanny Chambers (Image: Contributed)“News that our A&E is being shut down will worry a lot of people. Considering the new hospital is delayed by years, we can't have local people unable to get emergency treatment in their hour of need.

“I'll be seeking urgent reassurances.”