Downgrading services at a hospital at the centre of a General Election row between locals and the Government did not adversely affect healthcare provision in the area, a new study suggested yesterday.
A decision to close A&E and other acute facilities at Kidderminster Hospital in 2000 led to the ousting of the sitting Labour MP and the election of former GP Dr Richard Taylor on a single-issue ticket the following year.
The independent Kidderminster Hospital & Health Concern party went on to take several seats in local authority elections under the campaign slogan: "We are all entitled to proper medical care within reasonable reach."
But despite concerns about casualty and other acute services being moved 15 miles away to the Worcestershire Royal Hospital, a three-year study claimed there had been little variation in so-called measures of health like death rates and usage.
Instead, the University of Birmingham evaluation suggested that poor NHS consultation throughout the process had led to "major dissatisfaction" among local medical staff and residents.
Most doctors across the county were found to be "highly critical" of the consultation and felt the quality of in-patient services had deteriorated since the changes were introduced.
Dr Taylor said: "It's a scientific study that doesn't take into account the human emotion at all."
Some of his constituents are now forced to travel 30 miles to the PFI hospital in Worcester instead of ten miles to use NHS emergency care facilities in Kidderminster, he said.
"This puts a tremendous strain on families. The emotional cost of this is something that's very hard to measure and this study has not even attempted to," the MP said. Dr Taylor, 70, was re-elected in May with a reduced majority Dr Richard Taylor