ANTI-cuts protesters, trade unionists and pensioners joined forces for a demonstration outside the Royal Hallamshire Hospital as the second of two geriatric wards was closed.
They protested on the green in front of the hospital off Glossop Road on Monday, with union Unison warning of “the wrecking and dismantling of the National Health Service”.
But Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust says the move is part of a strategy of centralising elderly patients’ care at the Northern General Hospital and improving services in the community.
Two general geriatric wards at the Hallamshire, Q1 and Q2, which accommodated a total of 56 patients, have now been closed, prompting the demonstration by about 20 members of Sheffield Pensioners’ Action Group, the GMB trade union, Sheffield Save our NHS and the campaign group UK Uncut.
They had intended to hold a sit-in and blockade the ward to prevent its closure but changed their plans after deciding it could be ‘distressing’ for patients.
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.”
Health managers said 20 extra beds were being provided at the Northern General as health care in Sheffield is changed “to ensure the right patients are treated in the right place at the right time and in the most efficient way”.
David Throssell, deputy medical director for the trust, said: “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 beds, community intermediate care packages and short-term intervention 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.”
lThe Sheffield Save Our NHS campaign meets at the Victoria Hall, Chapel Walk, on Monday at 7pm. A demonstration will be held in the city centre on September 16.