UNION leaders say they are “deeply concerned” at the impact of the closure of wards for elderly patients in Sheffield.
They fear standards of care will suffer as more old people are treated in the community in what they believe is a financially motivated strategy.
But as the first of four wards closes, managers say the policy refelcts public pressure for care closer to patients’ homes. “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,” said David Throssell, deputy medical director of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation.
The row erupted with the closure of Ward Q1 at the Royal Hallamshire at the end of a consultation period. Unison regional organiser Andy Freeman said: “The trust is faced with some very difficult decisions in order to save £40m this financial year, so this proposal is the thin end of a very large wedge.
“The consultation outlined the intention to close four wards, so this is just the start. The impact on patients, particularly the elderly, will be immediate. We already know that on top of this there are going to be reconfigurations in Theatres as funding for surgery has been drastically reduced.”
Unison regional head of health Pam Johnson said: “The impact of ward closures like this are always keenly felt by patients and their families and we are deeply concerned about the impact these changes will have.”
Sheffield Trades Council is backing the protest.
Mr Throssel said the service was being centralised at the Northern General “because that is where the majority of older patients are admitted and therefore older patients won’t have to be transferred across the city”.
The trust had been working with NHS Sheffield and social services to reduce the number of patients unnecessarily in hospital or having their discharge significantly delayed because there is no nursing home place or community health service support to enable them to go home.
He added: “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 beds, community intermediate care packages and short-term invention packages to help reduce the number of patients in hospital beds unnecessarily. It is also expected that a further 20 additional intermediate care beds will also be provided.”
Dr Richard Oliver, a lead GP from commissioner NHS Sheffield, said: “When we consulted with the public last year as part of the Big Health Conversation, overwhelmingly people told us that they wanted to receive their care closer to their homes and our investment in community services is helping to make this a very real option.”