ADMINISTRATORS may have spent too much time developing recommendations on the future of Stafford Hospital 'behind closed doors with NHS managers', Stafford Borough Council's leader has said.
In a letter accompanying healthcare expert Durrow's damning report on the draft recommendations, Councillor Mike Heenan urges Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust's administrators to see the 'harsh critique' of their plans as an attempt to provide reasoned arguments to the borough council's their response.
"The Borough Council has a simple focus which is to ensure that there are good local health services for this and for future generations of Stafford citizens," he said.
"The current dilemmas of the NHS must of course be addressed but we are not satisfied that the timescale and process that you are caught up in have allowed you to find the best and most cost-effective long-term solution."
Councillor Heenan says the borough council's response gives prominence to two central points, the strong opposition to the removal of maternity services and 'our belief that the alternative arrangements have not been properly set out and costed' and the 'major' additional investment and funding needed to make the proposals happen.
"The total costs were not pinned down before you have had to consult and we know that there are intensive discussions still taking place within the NHS family," writes Councillor Heenan.
"We lack confidence that the definitive bill has yet been established and believe when it is, it must be tested against similar investment in strengthening the existing local service.
"Our concerns are exacerbated by the open secret that UHNS is in significant financial distress."
"I hope that there will be an opportunity to discuss our differences and that you will not close your mind to suggestions that there is a wider range of ideas than those coming from our neighbouring NHS Trusts - Trusts who can hardly be expected to put the interests of Stafford citizens at the top of their agenda.
"You can be assured that we will approach these discussions with the hope that we can find an agreed position to recommend to the local community - this would surely be preferable to an adversarial contest and challenge?"
Councillor Heenan finishes by saying he recognises the serious constraint the timescale of the administration process has placed on the team responsible for the recommendations and acknowledges the 'courtesy and thorougness' under which the exercise has been conducted.
He adds: "I am afraid you have simply not had enough time and may have spent too much of it behind closed doors with NHS managers."