A senior Preston councillor has called for the NHS to make good on talk of improving community services as part of the plans to build a new Royal Preston Hospital.Advertisement
Jennifer Mein, Preston City Council’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing, told a meeting of Lancashire County Council’s health scrutiny committee that hopes of creating a health hub in the city centre had been repeatedly dashed by an absence of funding.
Land which is now going to be the city’s Youth Zone near Preston Bus Station had previously been earmarked as a site for a health hub.
Jerry Hawker, senior responsible officer for the Lancashire and South Cumbria New Hospitals Programme, admitted that he did not have access to “a pot of money” that could guarantee the development of such a facility.
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However, he added that there was nevertheless now “a great opportunity…to perhaps do things differently to the way we have done in the past”.
Revealing that a new community infrastructure group had been established across the NHS and district councils in Central Lancashire, he said: “Too many people are going into hospital for care that could be managed in the community.
“I think there are more opportunities now for us to work together [and] to be more inventive [in] how we look at infrastructure and those supporting services, [which means that we] might be able to take some of these programmes forward more successfully.”
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Mr Hawker also attempted to allay fears amongst committee members about what one of them – Chorley councillor Margaret France – characterised as the “one-size-fits-all” model of new hospital builds that the government is intending to roll out as part of its national new hospitals programme. She said that approach would “cut no ice” at the Royal Preston, because it provides so many specialist services, like neurosurgery.
“The aspiration of the national programme to try to standardise everything has to be balanced against …[the fact that] every hospital is not the same,” Jerry Hawker responded.
“So we are very much involved in taking forward that conversation to find the right balance between giving the taxpayer confidence that we are doing this in a good way…but ultimately it’s got to be right for patients [and] for the services that are provided and it’s got to be right for the clinicians.”
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