With an extra 258 patients a week visiting Stoke Mandeville Hospital because of changes at Wycombe, there are concerns about how about the Vale-based site will cope.
At the start of this month Wycombe’s Emergency Medical Centre, which used to be an A&E department, was downgraded again to become a minor injuries unit - which treats non-emergency patients whose condition requires more than a GP appointment.
The changes have been blasted by Steve Bell, secretary of the Bucks health branch of Unison, who said: “It will cause confusion, because who defines what is a minor injury?
“They may attend the minor injuries unit only to be told they have to go to A&E.
“We are seeing greater centralisation to Stoke Mandeville and there’s no consideration for staff needs in relation to parking and the difficulty that staff have transferring from Wycombe in relation to child care and shift patterns.”
Stoke Mandeville currently has 1,100 parking spaces and 5,000 employees working one of three shift patterns over a 24-hour period.
There are plans for a 300 multi-storey car park at the site in the near future.
Terry Price of the Marlow Peoples’ Action Group, which is fighting against the changes, said: ”Stoke Mandeville A&E cannot cope now and it will get worse as thousands of extra A&E patients are diverted to Stoke Mandeville from the south of the county.
“High Wycombe district now have a sticking plaster unit, with a staff that will triage patients attending.
“It is an appalling service to the south of the county, which has the largest population in Buckinghamshire.”
Wycombe MP Steve Baker wrote on his website: “The loss of the A&E department in 2005 and the loss of the Emergency Medical Centre this year, together with other changes, have made many Wycombe residents bitter and fatalistic about the future of the hospital.
“They see a pattern and they feel it is leading towards ultimate closure.”
In response, a spokesman for NHS Bucks and Oxon said: “This expansion of Stoke Mandeville A&E is already in the public domain and has been widely discussed with patients and the public.
“The changes mainly affect respiratory, diabetes, gastroenterology and older patients who are brought by ambulance and who are often then admitted to hospital.
“We have calculated that an additional 258 people each week will go to Stoke Mandeville Hospital as a result of the changes and we published these figures in January during our Better Healthcare in Bucks public consultation.
“The aim of the changes is to enable teams of senior doctors who have been working across two sites to work together on one.
“This will allow consultants to spend more time with their patients, which evidence shows leads to better outcomes.
“This approach was recently supported by the report by the Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of Nursing which outlined the importance of the consultant-led ward round.
“Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust has undertaken detailed planning to ensure that staffing and facilities can support this increase in patient numbers.
“In addition, there is an ongoing programme of work to improve the environment of the A&E department in Stoke Mandeville.
“Wycombe Hospital continues to provide a 24/7 minor injuries and illness service for patients who ‘walk in’.
“It also continues to provide specialist units for cardiac and stroke patients.”