Hospital chief in patient pledge

THE chief executive of Ipswich Hospital last night pledged sick people would not be turned away despite a cash crisis forcing more patients to be cared for in their own homes.

THE chief executive of Ipswich Hospital last night pledged sick people would not be turned away despite a cash crisis forcing more patients to be cared for in their own homes.

Andrew Reed said the hospital - which is cutting beds and surgical theatre time - would always provide care where it was needed.

But he said for the changes to work, it was essential patients were not discharged too early and were still admitted to hospital when they needed it.

He was speaking after concern was voiced, particularly by pensioners, that the new system could lead to a deteriorating health service.

Mr Reed said: “The back stop is that the hospital is always going to be here. If people find they do need hospital care we will provide it.

“People should be reassured that the hospital is not going to go away.”

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Mr Reed said care in the community would involve the hospital, primary care trusts (PCTs) and social services working together to provide services for people in or near their own homes that prevent them coming to hospital.

A lot of people currently admitted to the hospital have an exacerbation of a long-term condition.

He said the principle, which is based on national evidence, was to get to people early enough so they do not become very sick.

He believed it would help patients, relieve pressure on the hospital and create other benefits.

For example, it would impact on the cancelling of planned operations because of high Accident and Emergency admissions.

Mr Reed said: “I understand there is anxiety about setting up new services.

“At the end of the day if there is bricks and mortar, a hospital there in the middle of the night, people know they are safe and have a backstop.”

However Mr Reed said the system could fail if the healthcare system does not effectively work together.

He said: “The system will fail if people either do not come into hospital that really need hospital treatment or are discharged from hospital too early. It will fail if that happens.

“The really big onus placed on the PCTs, ourselves and social services is to make sure that doesn't happen.

“That means we have got to be very clear on the kind of problems dealt with by services, how they will deal with problems, how they will assess the dependency of patients, and how the services will act if the patient has needs greater than they are equipped to meet.

“At the end of the day the hospital is here. If we do find there are people out there that do need a greater level of care than what is provided in the community then they will come into hospital and we will care and treat them.”

Mr Reed said one concern of the hospital trust was that social services, PCTs and itself would be “fishing from the same pool” - people may transfer from the hospital into community work, leaving the hospital with recruitment problems.

Meanwhile, Suffolk county councillor Jane Midwood, portfolio holder for adult care and community services, said it was distressing health care providers in Suffolk were under such financial pressure they were having to look at radical solutions as hospital closures and bed reductions.

“In social services, our aim is to look after as many people in their own homes,” said Mrs Midwood.

“But there is a limited amount of cash in our budget and next year, and the Government has indicated that local government budgets next year have to be kept under control.”

The county council's health overview and scrutiny committee meets on September 5 to discuss the funding problems, especially as it affects community hospitals in Newmarket, Sudbury, Felixstowe, Aldeburgh and Eye.

Mrs Midwood said: “We hope to have received a reply from Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt to our plea for Suffolk to get extra health resources.

“We all have a responsibility to reassure residents of Suffolk that their care will not suffer because of the cash crisis facing hospitals and primary care trusts.”

Meanwhile, elderly people in the county have voiced fears about the impact proposed cuts at hospitals across Suffolk may have.

Jack Thain, chairman of the Suffolk Pensioners Association, said earlier this month he believed some OAPs may die at home while waiting for hospital care.

And Rachael Childs, policy officer for Help the Aged, said last night: “The level of under investment in social care services for older people is abysmal and simply can't continue.

“To deny older people the care they need is to seriously compromise their independence, health and wellbeing.

“In the end older people are paying for inadequate social care funding with their own mental health, physical health and dignity."

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