Health chiefs rubber-stamp NHS changes

Health chiefs have rubber-stamped a blueprint for community care in Norfolk which will see many cottage hospitals saved from closure.However, the plan by Norfolk Primary Care Trust - approved at a special board meeting yesterday morning - did sound the death knell for St Michael's Hospital at Aylsham.

Health chiefs have rubber-stamped a blueprint for community care in Norfolk which will see many cottage hospitals saved from closure.

However, the plan by Norfolk Primary Care Trust - approved at a special board meeting yesterday morning - did sound the death knell for St Michael's Hospital at Aylsham.

The intermediate care scheme, which will see more healthcare delivered to patients in their own home, affected several hospitals and about 200 beds across the county - with St Michael's the only hospital to shut. Bed numbers were cut from 201 to 178 but services will remain at the other hospitals.

Dozens of campaigners from Aylsham crowded into the meeting at UEA Sportspark in Norwich to mount a last-ditch attempt to persuade board members to rethink their decision.


You may also want to watch:


But PCT chairman Sheila Childerhouse said: “It is an incredibly difficult decision when changes to services that are much loved are made. I understand the passion people feel for the bricks and mortar but we do have to make sure that we make the best use of resources, both financial and human, to produce as much flexible care as we can for people across the county.”

Director of provider services Mark Taylor, who led the project, said: “This is about getting a balance with bed-based care and home-based care.”

Most Read

He also presented figures that show the new plan would deliver care to 18pc more people for the same resources.

The new intermediate care strategy includes plans for a specialist stroke unit for central Norfolk, though there is now some doubt over whether that will be sited at Dereham Hospital or elsewhere.

The intermediate care strategy sees stroke services put out to tender and it is unlikely this will be completed until next spring.

Under the intermediate care review, the PCT initially planned to cut beds from 201 to 158, but now, that will be pegged at 178 and spread over five community hospitals. The figure of 178 includes 104 rehabilitation and palliative care beds, about 40 stroke rehabilitation beds and also 34 supported care beds that will be sited far and wide across the county, including in some units that campaigners feared would close.

The 104 rehabilitation and palliative care beds will be split over five sites at: Norwich Community (24), Dereham (24), Kelling (24), Swaffham (18) and North Walsham (14).

The “supported beds”, to further help people recover, will be spread across the county, some at the threatened units and others elsewhere. They will be at Fakenham (2) and possibly at Cranmer House; Aylsham (5), though not at St Michael's; Thetford (3); south east Norfolk (5); Wymondham, potentially at Ogden Court (6); Norwich (2); Downham Market (9) and north-west Norfolk.

Some of the locations have yet to be finalised and there remains ongoing discussion about the viability of the Swaffham site for long-term use, though the meeting heard from hospital friends' chairman David Gulliver that the town council has offered a pocket of land to expand the site.

Patient and Public Involve-ment Forum representative Esther Harris sought assurances that community teams would be in place and “up to scratch” before changes took place.

The PCT, still struggling to pay off a £46m deficit, will not save any money by the changes and because it now needs more beds at more centres than proposed in the consultation document, there are likely to be only a handful of redundancies. By next April, an additional 30 community care staff will be recruited.

However, concerns were raised that as staff leave posts at Aylsham the hospital will close prematurely by default due to staff shortages and well before the two years forecast.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter