Campaigners stage protest over temporary ward closures at Norfolk’s biggest hospital

Campaigners outside the N&N Hospital in Norwich, protesting about the planned changes to healthcare

Campaigners outside the N&N Hospital in Norwich, protesting about the planned changes to healthcare and bed closures. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Demonstrators gathered outside Norfolk's biggest hospital to protest against bed closures and cuts to services which they fear lie ahead.

Members of the Norfolk branch of campaign group Keep Our NHS Public spent several hours outside the Norfolk and Norwich (N&N) Hospital yesterday.

A total of 68 beds were closed recently across the N&N's Cringleford, Edgefield and Holt wards, while Mattishall Ward is closed for refurbishment.

But hospital bosses have insisted the closures are only temporary – with all the wards set to reopen by the end of October.

They said a lull in patient demand has enabled them to drive down spending on temporary staff – a key aim for the N&N trust which faces a £32m deficit this year and is in financial special measures.

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The chiefs also say beds will be reopened sooner if the patient demand rises again.

But Bill Adnams, of the Norfolk branch of Keep Our NHS Public, said: 'Given that this hospital has always been over-stretched we think this is placing dangerously high demands on beds and that there are consequences for patients safety.

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'Even though we're pleased we've had an assurance these beds will reopen we think it's not acceptable they are shut for this length of time and there is no guarantee they won't close beds temporarily in future because they are under orders from the NHS leadership to make drastic cuts to what they spend.'

Richard Parker, chief operating officer at the N&N trust, said: 'We have been taking advantage of a seasonal low in patients needing medical care to consolidate our staff on to fewer wards and make savings in agency staffing, before we take on 100 extra newly qualified staff in the autumn from the UEA.

'These changes have been made possible because of improvements in the Emergency Department performance and tackling delayed discharges and in particular long stays of over 14 days.'

Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, said he supported the protest. 'Whether the temporarily closed wards reopen or not, this is a much bigger fight,' he added. 'We're now at the point where unless we step up the fight for it – in many ways, in many places – our NHS will either become unrecognisable in years to come or cease to exist.'

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