This is by way of an update and my commentary on developments at Ashford and St. Peter’s Hospitals NHS Trust.
In a nutshell, the two rehab wards for elderly people at Ashford have closed by now and people too well to be on a hospital ward but too ill to go home are likely to be heading elsewhere.
Firstly, patients of all ages are getting sent home too early after operations; there’s a reliance on relatives or friends to ‘help out’ when often no one is available.
Secondly, as the Union points out, this is really a hidden privatisation of services.
Thirdly, it’s a further downgrading of Ashford Hospital. Once a fine teaching hospital with its own A and E, it is now a complex of flats and a Tesco with a hospital attached.
Fourthly, and saddest of all, NHS hospitals seem unable to properly deal with the rehabilitation of the elderly which is very specialised work which requires continuity of staff, a real ethos to help the elderly and an ability to care.
Unfortunately, the average NHS ward has such a changeover of staff and such a reliance on Agency temps to make up the numbers that long term care is problematic.
My own experiences with Wexham Park Hospital, Slough last year bear this out.
This failing hospital very nearly killed my Mum, failing to treat her properly over three long and very unpleasant weeks on the notorious Ward 17.
By then unable to walk, she was then sent to the Upton Community Hospital, Upton, Slough to ‘recover’.
This is run by a separate Trust and has a completely different ethos and way of working. It took two months of really hard work but they were open to restoring the treatment that Wexham had changed and gradually got her back on her feet.
It seems to be general that the elderly are being failed by NHS hospitals – Ashford and St. Peter’s are just accepting the inevitable.
Ward closures announced at Ashford Hospital following CCG review
16 June 2015
By Matt Strudwick
The closure of two of Ashford Hospital’s wards, used by the elderly for rehabilitation care, is another step to privatising the NHS, according to a trade union.
The Wordsworth and Fielding wards will close by the end of this month after a review carried out by the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) found patients recover better away from acute hospitals.
Patients will now be placed in rehabilitation care at Walton Community Hospital, Woking Hospital, nursing homes and care at home.
Stephanie Cesana, Unison regional organiser, said by putting contracts out to the private sector it showed everything is about savings.
“It’s a further example of the creeping privatisation in the NHS,” she said.
“This Government is determined to chip away at the NHS until all services have been privatised. It’s worrying and disappointing.”
Staff at the two wards have been moved to alternative positions within the trust.
Christine Armitage, assistant director of therapies at Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said the use of nursing home beds would act as a step between nursing and patients going home.
“Within a nursing home, a lot of those patients don’t need intensive therapy,” she said. “They need a bit of time and someone there to get stronger and to regain confidence. That’s the idea of those beds.”
The ward closures will lead to a reduction of 43 beds at the hospital, but the trust said it is still working on its strategy as to what to do with the empty space.
Heather Caudle, chief nurse at the trust, said: “We know keeping patients in hospital for long periods of time is not necessarily in their best interests, particularly older, frail patients, and this can actually lead to a deterioration in their wellbeing as well as a reduction in independence.”
The trust said Ashford Hospital would still provide a walk-in centre and will continue to provide stroke rehabilitation care at its Chaucer ward and orthopaedic care at its Dickens ward.
“This is no reflection on the excellent job our staff have been doing for patients at Ashford Hospital,” she said. “These changes are purely focused on what is the best environment for this specific cohort of patients.”
On May 30, St Peter’s Hospital shut its Ambulatory Emergency Care Unit (AECU) which had been set up to provide urgent assessment and treatment for patients who were brought to hospital by ambulance. The trust said it had not seen the expected patient numbers or flow. The referral service for GPs, which was in place through the AECU, will now run from the Medical Assessment Unit.
Of course, the fact that CCG found that patients recover better out of hospital isn’t an argument for closing wards – it’s an argument for changing the system and adopting best practice instead.
(a don’t stop till you drop production)
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