Leaked documents created to show possible scenarios for the future provision of services at hospitals in the region have revealed the top option was that Kettering Hospital would lose 515 of its 658 beds.
The Telegraph can reveal that in July, medical experts at Healthier Together discussed which hospitals would have their services affected, and the top option was a scenario where Kettering would lose 78 per cent of its beds.
Healthier Together is a project tasked with reviewing hospitals in Kettering, Bedford, Luton, Milton Keynes and Northampton with the aim of providing better services for people across the region.
Healthier Together says the documents, which were produced in July, are a work in progress that have since been refined, and project bosses stressed that no decisions have been taken on how each hospital will be affected.
The paperwork was given to the Telegraph by Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Corby and East Northants, Andy Sawford, who received it from Luton South MP Gavin Shuker.
He said: “This will be the end of the hospital as we know it.”
The July documents reveal that health officials outlined 14 options for hospital models, with their top option being number 13 after ranking each possiblity against criteria such as travel, affordability, quality and sustainability.
The paperwork says “the 14 options tested assume that three of the hospitals will remain major acutes, while the two other hospitals will have varying levels of service on site”.
The top option would see Kettering become one of the two smaller hospitals, in a model where it would have a reduced A&E, and without medicine and critical care. Only 30 per cent of its maternity services for uncomplicated births would be retained, but trauma and orthopedic elective surgery would only be cut by 10 per cent.
Under this model, Northampton Hospital would gain 100 beds, but the five hospitals under review would lose 600 beds in total. Six out of the 14 options would see Kettering gain beds. The experts’ second favoured option would see Kettering’s hospital lose 229 beds.
Mr Sawford, who is also a trust member at Kettering Hospital, added: “This is the devastating detail behind the current consultation. It confirms that Kettering is one of the two hospitals targeted for a major downgrade.
“Local people will be appalled that the plan was to keep this terrible news secret until after the by-election but no-one can now claim there is no threat to our vital hospital services.”
The documents reveal that the five hospitals are facing a funding deficit of £48m.
Steve Lowden, independent chairman of Healthier Together’s public advisory group, said the plan is not purely a cost-cutting exercise, adding: “Certain parts of the community will not be disadvantaged.”
Simon Wood, programme director of Healthier Together, said: “Local hospitals are at the heart of local community life and we understand how the very idea of change can be the subject of substantial concern.
“The documents discussed at the July 24 meeting of Healthier Together’s Programme Board were working papers which we continue to review and develop.
“They contained a wide range of figures, all of which continue to change as we develop detailed proposals.
“It would be unhelpful to release these working documents into the public arena at this time because it is likely to result in members of the public and patients drawing conclusions about the future of hospital services that are misleading and confusing.
“No decisions have been taken and we continue to listen to comments and feedback from patients, local people and NHS staff.
“When we have finalised our detailed proposals through testing the models and potential locations, we will share that information publicly.
“We are committed to full and informed public discussion about how we can improve the safety and quality of health services across the south-east Midlands.
“Detailed proposals – including potential locations for health services – will be the subject of formal public consultation over a period of at least 12 weeks due to take place in 2013.”