'Don't reopen Heatherwood birth unit' - Phillip Lee MPBy Laura Herbert
February 14, 2012
The town’s MP has declared he does not support calls to re-open the birth unit at Heatherwood Hospital, despite a campaign to secure its future by his constituents.
Bracknell MP Dr Phillip Lee gave his views on the future of health services in East Berkshire at Bracknell Forest Council's health overview and scrutiny meeting last Thursday.
Campaigners will fight to keep Heatherwood hospital
Dr Lee said: “I have plenty of experience and recognise this community has never been properly served with healthcare. It was promised a hospital and it has never been delivered.
“Heatherwood has become the place people are very fond of and very affectionate about.
“I fully understand the history around it and the emotional attachment to it. The problem is health care in the last 15 to 20 years has changed significantly and the way in which we work with providers has changed.
“It would be wrong of me, morally wrong, to defend services as they are.”
He continued: “I want to provide the very best healthcare for my constituents. The Ascot Birth Centre has temporarily closed.
“I don’t want it open again because it delivers less than one baby a day [on average].
“It is a midwife-led unit when there is an obstetrician unit at Frimley Park Hospital. That is where my future wife – if I find one – that’s where she will be delivering.
“How can I stand on the steps of Bracknell and defend the Ascot Birth unit? I can’t do it.”
Dr Lee added: “What we do need is a proper hospital on the M4 serving the region and not the district.
“Healthcare is becoming unaffordable day by day.”
He estimated the new hospital would cost in the region of £580 million and admitted funding could be difficult.
He said: “I think it is completely out of order Bracknell gets less money per head from central funding. If there’s the will, I have certainly found the way.”
Councillor Dale Birch, executive member for adult services, health and housing, said: “I don’t think there is anybody who will disagree with Dr Lee’s comments.
“What I would like to do is take the intention and make it into the now.”
Dr Lee told the panel he and his researcher have been looking into the possibility of a hospital on the M4 corridor and are due to produce a report later this month.
Charles Waddicor, chief executive of NHS Berkshire Primary Care Trust, said: “There is a great strong emotional attachment to Heatherwood and I recognise that.
“There probably is a way we can find a solution to this that appeases most people, but ultimately we have got to find something the community needs and we can afford as commissioners.”