There was a fantastic turnout at a protest which was held outside Marlow community hospital on Wednesday 5th April to demonstrate against the closure of beds at Marlow and Thame hospitals. Twenty overnight beds closed from 1st April in a 6 month ‘pilot’ and more diagnostics will take place in ‘community hubs’. Dozens of people chanted ‘Hand Back Our Hospitals’ and called for the beds to be reopened.
There is deep concern about the closure of these wards. The public were full of praise for the staff and care they received from them in the past.
SaveWycombeHospital campaign leader Miss Ozma Hafiz said “Buckinghamshire has received less funding for some time resulting in centralisation of services such as A&E and maternity. Now under ‘Sustainability and Transformation plans’ (STPs), the NHS is being forced to make more savings, resulting in the removal of our community hospital beds. These changes have been rushed through without proper public consultation and when social care is already struggling.”
“The Buckinghamshire community has been badly let down by the lack of scrutiny of these plans. Other councils are putting the needs of their residents first by rejecting the STP plans, we deserve the same. Our MPs must also step up and champion more funding for our NHS. Additional resources need to go into prevention to help keep people safe and well. Bed closures in the county will impact other hospitals in and around Bucks, this affects us all. The John Radcliffe already cancelled ‘non-urgent’ operations over the winter due to a shortage of beds. The Trust needs to reopen these beds and redeploy the excellent staff teams. We need proper public consultations on the whole of our STP.”
Bucks resident Andy Trueman said: “A pilot that only runs in Spring and Summer seems difficult to understand when we are just coming out of possibly the worst Winter pressures that the NHS have ever faced and that is a winter which wasn’t particularly severe. More than 40% of hospitals in England declared a major alert in the first week of 2017 as the health service came under increasing pressure. Stoke Mandeville A&E waiting times only hit NHS targets for 2 months in 2016 and the hospital was on Black Alert, running at critical capacity during January 2017. Bed blocking was cited as the major reason. Then some 12 weeks later, Bucks NHS Trust remove beds. It simply doesn’t make sense. At no point will there be a chance to test this pilot in the most difficult time for hospitals. If they are so confident, why not?
They base their reason for the pilot on the public engagement sessions that they undertook last year but very few people members of the public attended these sessions. At these meetings, they picked up on the desire of the public to have more treatment in their communities and at home which is of course preferred. However, it was not mentioned that this could be at the cost of community beds. So the public were not given the full picture last year.
Despite the pilot being raised at both the Bucks County Council Health & Adult Social Care (HASC) Committee and Health & Wellbeing Board there does not appear to have been sufficient level of scrutiny or challenge to the plans. Moreover, not all the community services will be in place for the start of the pilot and this risks putting vulnerable people at risk.
It is also still not clear how this pilot will be monitored and its effectiveness or otherwise measured. The metrics and ongoing assessment need to be publicly available and the Trust need to be open and honest about how it is working. Our fear is that people who would have needed these beds will now be sent home and be ‘lost’. Out of sight, out of mind. “
Ozma added, “We need everyone to speak up for our NHS, local decision makers included.
Unfortunately, we’ve heard the term ‘pilot’ used before when Ward 5B closed. Residents like Terry Price from Marlow have sacrificed so much giving to the community and campaigning for Wycombe and Marlow hospitals over the years. They more than deserve to use
overnight beds at their local community hospital should the need arise. Closure of
these beds is in Terry’s words ’absolutely disgraceful’ and I completely agree with him. This essential resource should be available to residents.”
It is feared that these bed closures will be rolled out to other community hospitals. A petition reached 1000 signatures in under two days and was submitted to local decision makers. It can be found on www.savewycombehospital.co