NHS shake-up could close Hitchin Hospital

THE future of a hospital threatened by closure could be unveiled tomorrow (Friday), but there are calls for the NHS to “see sense” and keep it open.

Hitchin Hospital, on Oughton Head Way, has been facing closure ever since a report published by the primary care trust (PCT) in July 2010 indicated that community hospitals could be replaced by home care.

It follows a shake-up of facilities in West Herts, including the closure of Windmill Lodge near Watford.

Two NHS reports published last month - a Quality Innovation Productivity and Prevention (QIPP) Plan and Strategy for Improving Healthcare - both state that there will be a reduction in intermediate care bed-based services, like those provided at the hospital.

The former report states that the PCT hopes to “strengthen the position of home based care services” and introduce “a reduction on bed provision”. It also says that reprovision will be “done by other organisations”.

A consultation paper due to be published tomorrow will reveal Hitchin Hospital’s future.

An NHS Herts spokesman said that it could not say what details would be in the report until it was released, and would neither confirm or deny that the hospital - or any other - would close.

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She added: “A new vision for intermediate care - where more patients are looked after at home and beds are commissioned in a larger number of locations - was agreed by the board of NHS Hertfordshire (the primary care trust) in July 2010.

“A consultation is due to be published at the end of this week which will ask people for their views on how the vision is implemented in this part of Hertfordshire.”

The hospital, used to accommodate about 50 patients but now has 10 beds.

Hitchin resident Valerie Hill, who recently stayed there for three weeks, said that if it were to close, it would be a great loss to the town. She also added that staff there seemed worried they would lose their jobs.

She told The Comet: “People were saying in the hospital that it would be shut within a couple of years. They really need support.

“The nurses treated all their patients with kindness, consideration and sensitivity of their various needs. The wards were spotlessly clean.

“It is a valuable and much needed resource and should be allowed to thrive and flourish for many years to come.

“I hope that they [the PCT] see sense and keep it open so others can .”

A spokesman for Herts Community NHS Trust, the organisation responsible for specialist services including those at Hitchin Hospital, said: “We are aware of this engagement process beginning, which we believe will be a three month process. We are beginning to discuss issues with our staff.”