Nurses at Chichester hospital angry at ward merger bid

Nurses at St Richard’s Hospital have slammed health bosses’ plans to merge two wards and said elderly patients will be the ones left to suffer.

The medical division of the Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust has proposed to merge the Lavant and Boxgrove wards, which currently have 27 beds each. The Lavant Ward deals with acute medicine and elderly care while the Boxgrove Ward deals with acute medicine and gastroenterology patients.

The plans would also involve moving the stroke unit on the Petworth Ward to the empty ward created by the merger, all of which would mean a reduction of 20 beds overall. A consultation on the plans has been launched and will finish on June 6.

“This short-sighted act would result in far fewer beds for the elderly patients,” said a nurse from one of the wards, who has asked to remain anonymous.

“The population is living longer and there are more elderly living in this area. The acute medical ward (Lavant Ward), which has the majority of patients over 70 and with many of them suffering dementia, is stretched as it is.

“The ward is full to capacity throughout the year. This is regardless of the elderly patients having shorter stays in hospital.

“I understand these cuts are necessary and cannot be made to other wards in the hospital due to their medical nature, but as usual the elderly are the ones who will suffer.”

She added: “Do not be fooled by the PR jargon that the hospital will be more streamlined. These are damaging cuts, which are detrimental to the health of our elderly.”

There are fears elderly patients would be forced to spend their life savings on private care because there will be no NHS resources.

Another nurse has criticised the plans and said it was ‘inappropriate’ to move the gastro patients from the Boxgrove Ward to the Lavant Ward in with elderly patients.

‘BED NUMBERS ONLY PART OF THE STORY’

Medical director Dr Phillip Barnes said: “Simply looking at total bed numbers only tells part of the story – our aim is to always make our services even better, even safer, and even more efficient. Measuring this solely in terms of bed numbers is misleading.

“Hospitals are changing. In 2012 more and more patients can and do receive high quality care without having to stay on a ward for significant periods of time. More day surgery, more outpatient care, ever more effective day case treatments are all improvements which mean that fewer patients need to stay in hospital, and stays on wards are shorter. The effects can already be seen very clearly – our trust saw 2,200 fewer inpatients between April and December 2011 than in same period the previous year, while the number of outpatients rose by 21,000.

“In addition to this general trend, there has been a major change in the way we care for gastroenterology patients – with fewer now needing inpatient care and many more receiving specialist care and treatment in outpatients and as a day case.

“These two factors mean that proposals have been drawn up to merge two wards, and to allow our gastroenterology, acute medicine and elderly care specialists to focus their efforts more on the patients who require their expertise.

“All of our patients will still have access to the inpatient care that they need; that will not change. However, we do anticipate that care standards will be driven higher and that is why we are consulting with our staff about these possible changes.

“Our care standards are high, and our waiting times are low, and we are seeking ways of protecting those achievements and building on them.”