Hospital beds cut in staff shortage

A SUFFOLK hospital is on its way to “fulfilling a tragic destiny” following an announcement that the number of in-patient beds are to be slashed because of a staffing crisis.

A SUFFOLK hospital is on its way to “fulfilling a tragic destiny” following an announcement that the number of in-patient beds are to be slashed because of a staffing crisis.

West Suffolk MP Richard Spring last night claimed the shortage of clinical staff at Newmarket Hospital was due to a lack of confidence in its future due to a looming threat of a reduction to services in a bid to quell the Suffolk West Primary Care Trust's mounting debts.

But health bosses said the plans to cut the number of in-patient beds from 16 to six throughout the Christmas period was a temporary and fully reversible decision, which was not related to the trust's cost-cutting initiatives.

“My concern is that the PCT is going to close these beds down and not re-open them,” said Mr Spring.

“This is fulfilling the hospital's tragic destiny because there are no assurances, and people are voting with their feet and resigning because they do not think there is a future for the hospital.

“It is a very stressful and anxious time for people working at the hospital, but it is a dreadful time for the PCT and people are coming to their own conclusions.”

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As of yesterday, admissions to the unit have been suspended, which will be followed by a gradual reduction in patient numbers as people become ready for discharge.

Hospital campaigner Shirley Crickmere said she was hopeful the remaining six beds would remain open in order to provide at least some of the care required by people in the town and surrounding area.

“I am hoping this is just a sensible arrangement over Christmas and that afterwards, when everything gets back to normal, the beds will reopen,” she said.

“The problem is that there is no cover available if a member of staff goes off sick, and it is a worry that people will not be able to get the care they need.

“But I do understand some of the PCT's problems and people need to try and work with the trust to try and keep the beds open, because no one wants to see them close.”

The PCT's director of clinical services, Jonathan Williams, said: “There are a certain number of staff available to manage the beds, but some people have moved on and we do not currently have the extra staff needed to cover the shifts if, for example, someone is unwell.

“We are trying to be 100 per cent honest with people about what we are doing, and we know it would not be appropriate for us to appoint other members of staff in the current financial situation.

“We can run the hospital with six beds, and we will prioritise the use of the beds by focusing on the patients that need them the most, but if people need to be in hospital then we will make sure a bed is made available.

“We are trying to create a new way of working by turning Newmarket into a new type of community hospital, and we do not want people to misunderstand this and say it is leading to closure.”

Mr Williams added the beds are likely to remain closed until the PCT finds out the results of its consultation period, which finishes at the end of January.

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