Health chiefs have been criticised for not dealing with a threat to the future of outpatient services at Doddington Hospital sooner.
Fenland MP Steve Barclay says he is “dismayed” NHS bosses have failed to resolve an issue which could potentially see the clinics scrapped in as little as three weeks – despite knowing about it for 12 months.
He is also angry to have only heard about the risk to services when news of it broke on Thursday, even though he is calling for increased localised healthcare as part of his Treat Me Local campaign.
Mr Barclay, MP for North East Cambs, is now demanding answers – and after holding an urgent meeting with NHS bosses, GPs and staff on Friday, he is confident the services could be saved.
The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) revealed last week that outpatient services at Doddington – and also at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Ely – were in jeopardy as 12 months of talks had failed to find an alternative provider to take over the running of them.
It followed an announcement by Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust (CCS) in May last year that they no longer wished to provide the services.
The CCG said unless a new provider could be found the services will cease from June 1 and transferred to either Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon, Peterborough City Hospital, or Addenbrookes in Cambridge.
Mr Barclay said: “I am dismayed the CCG hadn’t briefed me on this until the announcement was made last week, for which it has apologised.
“I have met regularly with Maureen Donnelly, chairman of the CCG, over the past year and this was never mentioned.”
Mr Barclay was told during the meeting on Friday that the reason an alternative provider has not been found is because the outpatient services are under utilised.
“I understand that currently there are around 6,500 outpatient appointments per year at Doddington and a similar number at the Princess of Wales,” he said.
“I am asking the CCG to set out exactly how many outpatient clinic appointments need to be conducted to make them viable and the initial estimate suggests 9,000 to 10,000.”
He is now trying to find out the various reasons why GPs have been referring patients to the larger hospitals outside of Fenland, and hopes to be able to encourage them to refer locally.
He urged the public to play their part, too, by exercising their right to be referred locally.
“It is not as doom and gloom as it originally appeared,” he said.
“It is clear from discussions that there is potential to save outpatients services at Doddington and the Princess of Wales, and not only that but to actually increase their number.”
A spokesman for the CCG said: “The CCG recognises how much these services are valued locally and will continue discussions with local providers to look at other options as to how we can continue to provide these services locally.”