Bed cuts: How can community hospitals survive after surgery?
EAST DEVON CONSERVATIVES SEEK REALISTIC BUT HUMANE SOLUTION TO NEW NHS FUNDING CHALLENGE
East Devon Conservatives have called for a pragmatic and collaborative approach to the threat of hospital bed closures in towns across the district and elsewhere in Devon, as local NHS bodies pursue the dual goal of massive budget savings and delivering a sustainable service for the future.
They are seeking a unified strategy with local MPs Neil Parish and Sir Hugo Swire in a bid to secure minimal impact on community bed provision from vital financial savings, wherever they fall. They hope to find a realistic but humane solution to the current funding challenge faced by the district and the region, in common with the rest of the country.
The Conservative Group are responding to the Your Future Care consultation launched by North, East and West Devon Clinical Commissioning Group on 7 October and running until 6 January 2017.
They want to see assurances that any closures that may come about following the consultation exercise will have a minimal effect on health care provision in any affected communities. Local health care facilities must be preserved and must reflect the higher-than-average ratio of older people in East Devon and the rest of the county.
And they insist that any bed closures are matched by the preservation or enhancement of social care in the home to levels that ensure the district’s increasingly ageing population do not lose out.
They are fully aware that patients waiting for treatment can be delayed because vulnerable people not capable of fending for themselves alone cannot go straight home, and so block much-needed hospital beds. The solution, they believe, is to work closely with GP practices and the new Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), to find a pragmatic but patient-friendly solution to the funding issue.
East Devon Conservatives fully support the efforts of local GP groups to protect and enhance facilities across the district, not only serving current needs but future-proofing services against the challenges posed by ongoing increases in patient expectations, advances in medical techniques and the emergence of more sophisticated surgical options.
Conservative-run EDDC now has a statutory duty to protect, maintain and improve the physical and mental health and wellbeing of individuals living in, visiting and working in East Devon. This includes providing warden-controlled sheltered housing for the elderly.
Meanwhile, Devon County Council has responsibilities for health and social care – an area that is key to the success of looking after people at home but which itself has been the subject of reduced central funding in recent times.
Summing up the response of East Devon Conservatives to the Your Future Care consultation, Councillor Jill Elson, Cabinet Member for Sustainable Homes and Communities, said: “Much as some parties want to just say ‘No’ to the proposed cuts in beds, we believe that approach is too simplistic and unworkable. It’s unfortunate, because cuts in beds at local hospitals will save relatively small amounts of cash compared with the disproportionately high impact that such cuts will have on individual towns and communities. But we have to deal with the reality of the situation we face.
“The Conservative Group believe that our energy is best applied to ensuring that each affected community not only retains the best possible healthcare facilities but also expands its day-care health provision so that it adds value. Any new model of care must be an improved model of care.
“Some see this latest challenge as a threat, but handled the right way it could turn into an opportunity to improve healthcare provision for everyone in Devon, now and into the future”.
“As a baseline requirement, we want an assurance that care for frail residents will not be compromised. But over and above that we need to find ways of upgrading healthcare for all, as well as future-proofing services to make them sustainable in the long term.
Whilst they recognise the need for savings and for greater efficiency, East Devon Conservatives are realistic about the many challenges posed by the proposals for bed closures.
Finding the right numbers and mix of trained staff to offer an alternative service to the traditional practice of occupying a hospital bed
- Identifying transition funding to keep vital services in full working order whilst the changes come into effect
- The need for alternative beds to be available for patients well enough to leave a ward but too frail to fend for themselves at home
- Offering a range of services at local hospitals that have lost beds, so the establishment continues to make a full contribution to education, preventive medicine and diagnosis
- An estates strategy that recognises the contribution many communities have made to creating, maintaining and equipping many local hospitals
- Special provision for end-of-life care and mental health needs
- Greater transparency and better communication with the public.
Jill Elson concluded: “If the alternative to bed closures is home care, then it has to be quality home care. Nothing else will do. That means the various organisations and services that offer different services across the wide spectrum of health care must learn to work together much more closely. In many cases this will involve a shift in mind-set among staff and a change of culture in the organisations themselves.
“East Devon Conservatives will be working hard to ensure that our residents and visitors are assured of the best possible health provision, combined with the best possible value for money for the taxpayer”.
Notes for Editors
East Devon MP Sir Hugo Swire will debate Devon’s future healthcare needs on Tuesday 18 October at Westminster Hall in London.
EDDC’s Scrutiny Committee will discuss the Your Future Care consultation at Knowle Council Offices on 24 November.