Hospital ward set to close
HEALTH bosses are todayexpected to rubber-stamp the closure of a 33-bed hospital ward for elderly patients.West Suffolk Hospital chiefs say a general need to reduce the number of beds at the Bury St Edmunds unit has forced the proposal to shut G6.
HEALTH bosses are todayexpected to rubber-stamp the closure of a 33-bed hospital ward for elderly patients.
West Suffolk Hospital chiefs say a general need to reduce the number of beds at the Bury St Edmunds unit has forced the proposal to shut G6.
They say better care will instead be provided for so-called "bed blockers" within the community, and insist jobs will be safe if members of the hospital's board vote in favour of the closure.
But the decision has provoked criticism from MPs concerned over future health provision and worried hospital staff.
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"If this is part of a genuine improvement in care for elderly people in the community, then that is fine," said Richard Spring, MP for west Suffolk.
"But we have a real bed blocking crisis in west Suffolk, and inadequate spaces in care homes. I very much hope that there will be an ability to absorb these people, but I am very concerned that may not be the case.
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"Despite the magnificent efforts of staff in all primary care, we do have enormous pressures on the health service and I do not think the question of bed blocking is being satisfactorily resolved in Suffolk."
Health bosses say patients would be relocated or discharged in a phased approach over a three-month period should the proposed closure go ahead.
David Ruffley, MP for Bury, said: "This may be some clever managerial idea, but most lay people, including myself, would say cutting beds for the elderly patient population seems extremely odd.
"You do not solve the problem of bed blocking by starting to axe hospital beds. You solve it by providing good quality nursing and residential home places in west Suffolk.
"Most people would say they want a good number of beds in the hospital in case of any emergencies. It appears the hospital will not be leaving themselves much room for manoeuvre in terms of any crises if these spaces are lost.
"The local population will not be impressed, and will want a proper explanation. I thought the general idea was to expand provision in the NHS instead of starting to cut beds."
Graham Kendall, Unison branch secretary at the hospital, said the news had left staff on the ward worried about an uncertain future.
He added that the move would be likely to cause upset for the elderly patients currently housed within G6.
"This is a big issue which has not been open for discussion. The decision to close has more or less been rubber-stamped as far as I can work out.
"The staff do have concerns as everything is up in the air at the moment. Some are worried as they are specially trained in rehabilitation work, but there should be consultation with them as to where they are going to go," he said.
Simon How, general manager for medical services at the hospital, insisted there would be no staff redundancies if board members voted in favour of closing the ward at today's meeting.
He said the proposal had been prompted by a general need to reduce the number of rehabilitation beds, identified during a six-month review of need within west Suffolk.
A joint plan by the hospital, Primary Care Trust and social services to provide more community-based care outside of an acute hospital setting, said Mr How, plus a general reduction in patients' length of stay had pointed to a need for less beds overall.
He added: "This all adds to us saying we can do with less beds within the hospital setting. With that in mind, the recommendation going to the trust board is that we close one rehabilitation ward - G6.
"We have kept staff on G6 informed of this process all the way along. If the decision is made to close the ward, we will consult with them. We anticipate there would be no redundancies involved, and we would look to redeploy the staff somewhere else within the hospital."