Save Our Beds

Health chiefs will take the first steps that could see the dismantling of the network of community hospitals that provide localised care across this county.

Health chiefs will tomorrow take the first steps that could see the dismantling of the network of community hospitals that provide localised care across this county. They have been forced into this because of the £50m debt mountain facing the new Norfolk Primary Care Trust.

The closure of these beds strikes at the very heart of the Norfolk community. These intermediate beds provide vital care for patients who no longer need the services of acute hospitals such as the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, but are not well enough to go home either because of medical condition of lack of support.

These community hospitals really do provide care, as opposed to treatment. In a largely rural area like Norfolk, they allow much easier access for the relatives of patients, and ease the problem of bed blocking in the acute hospitals.

Up to nine hospitals are under threat, involving some 227 beds, and it is being mooted that up to half these beds could disappear. We are told these plans are not just about saving money. Really?

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We would urge members of the PCT to think long and hard before moving any further with these plans. They fly in the face of government policy which recently announced a £750m package to support community beds.

Yes, community beds are more expensive, but maybe they are worth it. Can you really put a price on the care of people when they are at their most vulnerable?

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The plan to close these hospitals needs far more scrutiny. At the very least we would like to see a strategy of perhaps consolidating some community beds to make them more cost effective. This would mean fewer beds being lost, and might lead to a better distribution of intermediate beds across the county.

But unless, and until, a more compelling case is put forward than just helping resolve a cash crisis these cuts must not go ahead. On the face of it, the PCT appears to be “debt shunting” its problems to the acute hospitals and social services.

If these new proposals were to go ahead, it would be the second time in two years that community beds have been culled.

Enough is enough. It may be a cliché, but it is time to Save Our Beds, and the EDP will be campaigning on behalf of its readers to stop wholesale bed cuts in these local hospitals which represent part of the very fabric of the Norfolk community.

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