ANTI-cuts protesters and campaigning Sheffield pensioners joined forces for a demonstration outside the Royal Hallamshire Hospital as the second of two geriatric wards was closed.
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has now closed its two general geriatric wards Q1 and Q2 at the Hallamshire, which held a total of 56 patients, as part of plans to centralise elderly patients’ care at the Northern General Hospital.
But the trust has only created an additional 20 beds at the Fir Vale site. It says extra space will found as a result of plans to free up 150 beds by discharging patients more quickly from hospital.
The protesters, involving members of UK Uncut, Sheffield Pensioners’s Action Group, the GMB trade union, Sheffield Save our NHS - had proposed to hold a sit-in and blockade of the ward to prevent its closure yesterday.
But they changed their plans after deciding it could be ‘distressing’ for patients.
Instead, around 20 protesters demonstrated on the green outside the Royal Hallamshire’s front entrance, Glossop Road.
David Kirkham, of UK Uncut Sheffield, said: “These are just the start of cuts to public health provision in Sheffield, despite the Government saying health budgets were ring-fenced.
“We want to get the message across to the public in an eye-catching way so we decided that gathering on the green outside the hospital, which is a very visible site, would do just that.”
Ward Q1 was closed yesterday after Q2 closed earlier in the summer.
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals said 20 extra beds are being provided at the Northern General.
David Throssell, deputy medical director for the trust, said: “The way healthcare is delivered is changing in Sheffield to ensure the right patients are treated in the right place at the right time and in the most efficient way. The proposed changes to two of our wards are part of this change.
“We are centralising elderly care at the Northern General Hospital because that is where the majority of older patients are admitted and therefore older patients won’t have to be transferred across the city.
“For some months now we have been working with NHS Sheffield and Social Services to reduce the number of patients who are in hospital beds unnecessarily or have their discharge significantly delayed because there is not a nursing home place available or the relevant community health service support to enable them to go home.
“Nationally it is recognised best practice to ensure elderly care patients do no spend any longer in hospital than necessary because it exposes them to increased risk of infection, loss of mobility and independence.
“At any one time we have over 150 patients in hospital who don’t need to be here.
“In recent months more than £3m has been invested to provide additional nursing home bed, community intermediate care packages and short term invention packages to help reduce the number of patients in hospital beds unnecessarily. It is expected that a further 20 additional intermediate care beds will also be provided.”