Hospital beds face axe

A ward closure at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds will result in the loss of 26 beds.

THE imminent loss of more than 20 beds at West Suffolk Hospital was last night branded “absolutely disgusting” by a town council chairman.

A total of 26 beds are set to be axed at the Bury St Edmunds hospital when one of the rehabilitation wards closes, it has emerged.

No jobs will be lost as a result, but some staff will relocate within the hospital.

Hospital chief executive Stephen Graves has defended the move, and said the beds were no longer needed as the average length of stay had reduced for those needing rehabilitation.

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But chairman of Bury St Edmunds Town Council Bob Cockle said: “To my way of thinking if a hospital is even considering closing a ward down that is very, very bad news for the residents of Bury.”

He added: “I cannot emphasise strongly enough – Sudbury, Thetford, the villages all around the area – the people need that service and for them (the hospital) to turn around and say we are going to close a ward down, I think that’s absolutely disgusting.”

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The hospital currently has 480 beds, compared with 550 in 2005.

A hospital spokeswoman explained how the plan was to close ward F7, move ward F8 into F7, and the remaining space would be used as a decant ward, where patients can be moved if there is a virus outbreak in another part of the hospital.

The 26 rehabilitation beds are due to be lost from Wednesday. There are 60 staff across the two wards.

Mr Graves said the hospital had been consulting with staff and trade unions since the end of May.

“All of the staff affected are being asked their preference as to where they wish to work and will be relocated elsewhere in the hospital.”

He said patients who need rehabilitation could now receive some of that care in the community, meaning the hospital was able to discharge them more quickly.

He said the hospital’s clinical teams had been looking for “more effective ways of delivering care”.

West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock said: “Having spoken to the hospital I have been reassured this is a change of use because of the changing needs of the hospital.

“I think all measures that can be taken to reduce hospital infections are positive.”

He added: “I have been invited to visit the hospital and look forward to doing so and to ensure the services it provides won’t be adversely affected.”

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