Protests over closure of elderly care wards

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PATIENTS and nursing staff are campaigning against the closure of elderly care wards in Sheffield hospitals.

Fifty-six dedicated geriatric care beds are to be closed in two wards at the Royal Hallamshire and Northern General in the coming months.

A further 28 beds in one Hallamshire ward have already been closed and additional beds are set to be axed on at least two further wards – which have not yet been specified – later this year.

The move is part of health chiefs’ long-term plan to reduce bed numbers and shift people back into the community.

NHS Trust managers insist the changes are being made to make treatment of elderly people more efficient, with geriatric wards being consolidated near the A&E centre at the Northern General.

They say the drive to reduce bed space is based on the need to shift more than 150 people out into community care, reducing the number of expensive beds being taken up by people who are not chronically ill.

They also insist that further closures will not be made until adequate services are available in the community.

But staff and pensioners have reacted angrily to news of the closures, arguing there is insufficient alternative provision to cope with the surplus patients.

Jacqueline Milner, aged 68, secretary of Sheffield Pensioners Action Group, said: “Why is it that the elderly pay for every cut? Little by little they are taking apart the NHS.

“Today is the 63rd birthday of the foundation of the health service – but it won’t be long before we wake up and there’s no health service left.

“A 30-day consultation is being carried out for staff, but nobody has contacted the people who will be affected.

“Why has there been no consultation with elderly patients?”

More than 30 nursing staff on the Q1 ward have been told they will be redeployed to other wards in August.

Staff on the Vicars 4 ward at the Northern will be moved when it closes in mid-September.

The patient discharge lounge and emergency medicine facilities in the Hallamshire’s Admissions Assessment Unit will also be closed in October.

One nurse said: “To close these wards is ridiculous. We are dealing with an ageing population, and with all the cuts there is no provision for them elsewhere. Where are they going to go?”

Another staff member said: “They are treating elderly patients as low-value patients.”