Concerns over Hitchin Hospital closure implementation

CONCERNS have been raised over the strain a hospital’s closure could have on home carers and specialist nurses.

NHS Hertfordshire, the county’s primary care trust (PCT), said that it was looking to close Hitchin Hospital this spring in a report it published in November.

But the Herts Community NHS Trust (HCT), the body which runs the hospital, said at a panel meeting last Thursday that it had found flaws within the proposals, claiming that there were several things not taken into account.

It has now sent the comments, made in a report, to the PCT. Among its concerns were the strain the closure could have on nurses and other staff, and that the strategy did not reflect the range of demands at local care and nursing homes.

“The strategy appears to assume that patients who had previously been admitted to Hitchin Hospital now will go into an independent nursing or care home, there being no additional demand made on existing community nursing and therapy services. Yet, the nature of intermediate care is described as... [being] provided in a person’s home or via a community hospital or care home,” said HCT interim chief executive Derek Smith.

“On this basis, we should assume that a proportion of patients whom today would be admitted to Hitchin can and will be cared for in their own home. Yet there is no mention in the paper of strengthening the community nursing and therapy staffing in parts of the county which are the least well-resourced.

“It seems to be assumed that hard-pressed nurses and therapists will absorb the caseload without affecting their existing workloads. We would suggest therefore that this omission in the strategic approach is corrected if detriment to other patients in north and east Herts is to be avoided.”

Most Read

One Hitchin resident, who asked not to be named, stayed at the hospital last year. She said she didn’t think home carers would have been able to give her the same level of care she received.

“The hospital helped me immensely, and was a lifeline between hospital and coming home,” the Hitchin resident told The Comet.

“I don’t think home care would have been any good for me. I was so ill, and had developed a rash. I had to have a dressing on every day for a fortnight. I remember thinking ‘if I was at home, I couldn’t do this’.

“A support worker just would have been rushed off their feet and they have got far too much to do as it is. And I don’t think a care home would have worked either.

“There’s the social aspect too. At hospital, I had the companionship of four others, and we became quite friendly. Then, what would you do for food? You could have someone coming in, but it isn’t the same.”

The HCT said that despite the flaws, it remains in support of the closure, and said that it was working with the PCT to avoid making staff redundant. At both Hitchin and Royston hospitals, which is also proposed for closure, there are the equivalent of 46 full time staff.

“HCT considers that both premises are fundamentally unsuitable for the provision of healthcare in the 21st century and that both need to be replaced with more flexible models of care delivery,” added Mr Smith.

“Every opportunity will be taken to effect staff redeployment and discussions have begun with them to seek their views and wishes. However, HCT will not be able to redeploy all staff into vacant posts and is working on a countywide basis with NHS Herts and other providers to maximise the number of options available to staff.”

NHS Herts will consider the community trust’s report, along with other feedback from a public consultation, later in March. The consultation ends tomorrow (Friday).

A spokesman said: “NHS Hertfordshire has received a submission from Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust in response to the intermediate care proposals.

“The trust’s response will be considered alongside feedback from other individuals and stakeholders when the engagement period ends. A report, including recommendations arising out of the engagement, will be discussed by the NHS Hertfordshire Board at its meeting.”