Petition reaches No 10

PUBLISHED: 10:07 23 November 2006 | UPDATED: 13:36 04 May 2010

PATIENTS from East Cambridgeshire have been backing a major campaign to save the services they use at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon. A petition, signed by more than 55,000 people, was handed in at number 10 Downing Street on Monday by MPs Jonatha

PATIENTS from East Cambridgeshire have been backing a major campaign to save the services they use at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon.

A petition, signed by more than 55,000 people, was handed in at number 10 Downing Street on Monday by MPs Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) and Shailesh Vara (North West Cambridgeshire).

Mr Djanogly, who will present the petition formally to the House of Commons this evening (Thursday), told the Standard: "The sheer number of signatures is humbling. When you are an MP, you make decisions on behalf of your constituents, and this level of support gives you enormous confidence that you are tackling the issues you should be."

And on Tuesday, senior surgeons delivered a clear and ominous warning that, if Hinchingbrooke Hospital were to lose significant numbers of consultant surgeons, patients could kiss goodbye to a serious A&E department.

Emergency surgery is a key issue in retaining A&E at its present, highly effective level. But the number of surgeons available for the on-call rota to cover serious - and by definition unpredictable - emergencies is crucial.

At present surgeons, including consultants, put aside routine work every six weeks to provide round-the-clock cover for the unexpected, Jo Reed, the hospital's clinical director for general surgery, told a public meeting - the first of four this week and next looking at the future of Hinchingbrooke.

If that rota were changed, even to one week in five, she predicted, it would become increasingly difficult to recruit and retain the best surgeons. Surgery at the hospital would soon lose critical mass, emergency capability would be lost and major surgery would move to Addenbrooke's and Peterborough.

"Doing less is difficult in general surgery because of the need to sustain the on-call rota," Miss Reed told the meeting.

"We already work closely with neighbouring hospitals. We could do more of that. We could move breast surgery to Addenbrooke's and colorectal surgery to Peterborough. We could send emergency admissions to Peterborough, but we need to know how that would affect patients and the ambulance service. These are some of the options we have been looking at."

Miss Reed made it unequivocally clear that her favoured option was to find a way to keep emergency surgery in Huntingdon.

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