WE have been reporting on the future of the Royal Hampshire County Hospital for years.

Now at least we have clarity. Senior NHS managers want to press on with proposals to close the A&E unit, downgrade maternity in favour of a new hospital to be built in or near Basingstoke.

A public consultation will be launched but in truth the decision has been made. Services will leave the RHCH even if there will be a refurbishment and a 24/7 nurse-led  'urgent treatment centre' is opened. Time will tell if it remains '24/7'.

In June 2020 this column wrote: "The NHS is attempting to reconcile forces that often pull in different directions. We have a fine hospital but senior clinicians have been pointing out for years that there are not the finances to adequately staff all the specialisms that the NHS embraces (in Basingstoke and Winchester)."

Nothing has changed. The NHS works wonders on the money that it has available. It would appear that the British public does not want to pay more in taxes that would enable the NHS to carry on operating in the way it does. It is worth stating that other countries in Europe spend far more money on health care and also admire the NHS.

If the public wants to keep the RHCH as it is then they need to say so now and loudly. The danger is that the removal of services will accelerate and in a few decades the RHCH will be a glorified cottage hospital. Maybe it will no longer even exist as the development value of the land it sits upon is colossal.