‘It beggars belief’ - how a Norwich hospital ward was closed on Christmas Day because a nurse called in sick
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Seven patients moved from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital into a special unit to prevent bed blocking had to be returned to the hospital on Christmas Day because there was no nurse available to care for them, it has emerged.
In December, the Henderson Ward on the Julian Hospital site in Norwich was reopened to provide 12 rehabilitation beds - to help free up beds at the under pressure hospital.
The ward is run by the hospital in partnership with Norfolk County Council - with the hospital providing medical cover and the county council social services staff.
But it has emerged that, because a nurse phoned in sick on Christmas Day, the ward had to be shut.
That meant the patients spent Christmas Day being ferried back to the N&N - a situation criticised by county councillors who said it 'beggared belief'.
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Harold Bodmer, director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council, revealed the closure to councillors yesterday.
He said: 'We had to close it, rather dramatically, on Christmas Day, as there was no nurse cover. We had to move all the patients back to the N&N on Christmas Day, but it has now reopened and it is working really effectively.'
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But Conservative county councillor Shelagh Gurney, a member of the adult social services committee where the sudden closure was discussed, criticised what had happened.
She said: 'The setting up of it was a marvellous idea, but to have to move people back to the N&N because there was no nursing cover seems to me rather ridiculous.
'It doesn't seem particularly good to have people disturbed like that on Christmas Day.
'It beggars belief the hospital couldn't get a nurse to go and run the ward.'
Mr Bodmer said: 'The arrangement is that a nurse is provided by the N&N and on Christmas Day the nurse rang in sick.
'The hospital had no cover because it was running at a minimum staffing level.
'A decision was made that, in the interests of safety, we move them back to the hospital.'
Mrs Gurney said, while she understood the safeguarding reason for closing the ward, she was appalled the hospital had not been able to provide cover.
The hospital confirmed staff sickness had caused the Christmas Day closure. A spokeswoman said: 'We can confirm that the Henderson unit, responsible for those patients who are medically well enough to leave hospital but not strong enough and independent enough to be at home, was temporarily closed on Christmas Day due to short notice staff sickness.
'The seven patients were transferred back to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.'