Fears for cottage hospital, despite new bed-block crisis
Health bosses are being urged to ditch a consultation which could see a beds at a cottage hospital closed for good despite the emergence of a new bed blocking crisis.
Discussions on the future of Poltair Hospital near Penzance, which has been closed for nearly a year, are due to get under way this month.
This is despite a campaign to keep the hospital open by St Ives MP Andrew George and revelations that dozens of patients at Royal Cornwall Hospital (RCH) cannot be discharged each day because ongoing care is unavailable.
Graham Webster, vice-chairman of the campaign group Health Initiative Cornwall, said it was "unthinkable" to consider shutting a community hospital when the need was clear.
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"It is a scandal that Poltair has been allowed to stay closed for this long, but it is a bigger scandal that a permanent closure is even being considered," he said. "My point is that with so many patients waiting for discharge into the community, it is obvious that there are capacity issues.
"Why are we therefore considering closing ten beds."
The RCH has confirmed that in the last week there were between 30 to 40 patients every day whose discharge was delayed because they needed ongoing care, but a bed was not available in a community hospital or a social care package had not been finalised by Cornwall Council.
These delayed discharges – which effectively means a bed is blocked to an incoming patient – are among the highest in a difficult year for the Truro based trust which has been forced to call several major incidents over the issue.
Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust chief operating officer, Jo Gibbs said bed blocking was becoming an issue once more, despite a quieter period over the summer.
"After a marked reduction during May to the early part of July, we are seeing an increase in delayed transfers of care, currently averaging between 30 to 40 patients each day," she said.
Poltair, along with Cornwall's other cottage hospitals, has been run by private company Peninsula Community Health (PCH) since autumn 2011. However, in that time it has shut the in-patient beds at Poltair four times, with the latest closure ongoing since last October.
NHS Kernow, the GP-led clinical commissioning group which purchases healthcare for Cornish patients, will this month start consulting on the future of Poltair.
Mr George, a member of the powerful Health Select Committee, said he had received reassurance that the review will not be used as an excuse to close the beds. However, he voiced concerns that there was no intention to reopen them until the consultation is concluded next year.
"Many of us are concerned that once these beds are lost they will be lost forever and the patients who need round-the-clock medical oversight will chance it at home," he said.
A spokeswoman for PCH said it fully supported the NHS Kernow review on Poltair and no decisions had yet been taken.
She said there had been a "consistent availability" of community beds over the last 12 months across 13 community hospitals.
The spokeswoman added that improvement would require particular focus on making sure that appropriate packages of care were in place before leaving acute and community beds.