North Norfolk MP criticises health chiefs for ‘extraordinary failure’ to consult over bed closures

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb pictured at the unveiling of a new defribrillator at Mundesley Coastwat

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb pictured at the unveiling of a new defribrillator at Mundesley Coastwatch Station. Picture: MARIE GREER - Credit: Archant

Former health minister Norman Lamb has criticised plans to remove beds from healthcare units in north Norfolk.

Benjamin Court in Cromer. Picture: Colin Finch

Benjamin Court in Cromer. Picture: Colin Finch - Credit: Colin Finch

He claims the decision-makers behind the proposals may be in breach of their legal obligations and has called for an urgent meeting.

North Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group has served notice to Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust (NCH&C) on the beds it commissions at Benjamin Court in Roughton Road, Cromer and Cranmer House in Norwich Road, Fakenham.

It revealed it is moving away from hospital-based services to provide more care in the community and has developed a new 'Supported Care' model which is due to be rolled out in May.

Mr Lamb, the MP for North Norfolk, explained that under the Local Authority (Public Health, Health and Wellbeing Boards and Health Scrutiny) Regulations 2013, CCGs have a duty to consult the local authority about any proposal they have 'under consideration' for a substantial development of or variation in the provision of health services.

Cranmer House, in Fakenham. Picture: Chris Bishop

Cranmer House, in Fakenham. Picture: Chris Bishop - Credit: Archant

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And the proposals for Cranmer House come just months after campaigners were told it was no longer under threat.

Mr Lamb said: 'It seems extraordinary to serve notice that these beds will be de-commissioned without any prior consultation. I strongly suspect that the CCG is in breach of its statutory duty to consult on the plans before they were finalised, given that it amounts to a significant change in the provision of local healthcare services.

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'The apparent view that there is no requirement to consult because the closures apply to the beds, rather than the units themselves, is hard to justify, especially when the loss of beds could reduce support for frail elderly people for whom care in the home is not appropriate.

'The CCG itself states that it is introducing a new model of care. This is the sort of change that should involve consultation with the local community.

'The Overview and Scrutiny Committee should have had the opportunity to consider and feedback on these plans before any final decision was taken. Instead, the bed closures are being pushed through without any local scrutiny.

'After the original plans to close beds at Cranmer House seemed to have been shelved just three months ago, this u-turn by the CCG doesn't inspire confidence.'

The announcement has prompted anger from local councillors who admitted they fear it could lead to job losses and a reduction in services.

The proposals could also impact on beds at Cromer, Kelling, and North Walsham hospitals.

Mr Lamb added: 'I am asking for an urgent meeting with the CCG to explore alternatives to these closures. As well as a reduction in beds, it seems inevitable that jobs will be lost and I am happy to meet with staff who will be affected by these plans.'

The North Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group, which is responsible for commissioning NHS health services, insisted no decision has yet been made.

Chairman Dr Anoop Dhesi explained that it has served notice on the healthcare units at Cromer and Fakenham but that no action could be taken for at least six months.

He pointed out that patients' needs have changed and the health service needs to change to cope with new demands.

Dr Dhesi said: 'We haven't made any decision to close any ward. We don't know how many beds we need in these units.' But he added: 'We are trying to give a reassurance that we are not closing units or running them down.'

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