Ward closure scheme condemned

IPSWICH Hospital's idea that closing a ward will not lead to fewer beds has today been branded "balderdash".Public services union UNISON has attacked the plan and accused the Heath Road hospital of keeping frontline staff in the dark about the proposed closure of the 28-bed Washbrook Ward.

IPSWICH Hospital's idea that closing a ward will not lead to fewer beds has today been branded "balderdash".

Public services union UNISON has attacked the plan and accused the Heath Road hospital of keeping frontline staff in the dark about the proposed closure of the 28-bed Washbrook Ward.

Although hospital spokesman Jan Rowsell said no decision has yet been made, this was dismissed by Tony Jones, eastern regional officer for UNISON.

Mr Jones said: "They wouldn't have counselled staff and put a broadcast out if they weren't intending to close the ward. Our people have not been able to give their opinions before the decision was taken.


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"I should imagine everybody employed on that ward is concerned about their futures."

Mr Jones said The Ipswich Hospital NHS trust should have come directly to him well in advance with a business case for the ward closure and details on the repercussions for UNISON members.

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Mr Jones said: "To my knowledge there has been no prior consultation whatsoever with any of the staff who are going to be affected, or the community, or patients who could be affected.

"I am feeling extremely disappointed that the trust hasn't taken a conscious decision to consult with myself or any of the members.

"I would hope the trust will come back to me as a matter of some urgency so we can discuss these changes."

Mr Jones said closing the ward would result in a break-up of the working team, poor morale and staff having to work different hours.

Ms Rowsell, head of communications for The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust, pointed out a briefing was sent out to all staff last week and that there would be no job losses if the ward closed.

She said: "We feel that we do work closely with all members of staff and feel that we were keeping everybody involved.

"We will be doing absolutely everything we can to make sure that staff are fully involved, informed and consulted about changes."

Ms Rowsell said the possible closure was about changing, not cutting, services and is part of a push to reduce the number of patients whose planned operations are cancelled at the last-minute.

She said: "We need to close the ward to make the changes we need to set up the new pre-admission unit, which will be a place for patients to be advised about their planned treatment."

The hospital will also be making a distinction between emergency care and elective care and, as much as possible, be safeguarding elective care beds.

Ms Rowsell also said the number of beds in the hospital would stay roughly the same, because of plans to move on patients – currently 28 - waiting for care elsewhere.

Once these patients have been transferred, Ipswich Hospital will no longer be reimbursed for their beds by social care.

But Mr Jones said: "To say that they will be able to get 28 people out who are waiting for a transfer of care, in the timescale they are saying, is complete balderdash."

Ms Rowsell said there were also an increasing number of surgery patients who do not stay overnight.

Pointing out the Suffolk east health and social care economy is £19.4 million in the red, Ms Rowsell added the trust must change the way it works in order to achieve financial recovery.

Chris Dooley, chief executive for The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust, conceded that the initial reason for the possible closure of the ward was "to make the best use of resources" but that plans were in place to reduce the need for as much capacity in the hospital.

When asked why the briefing to all staff did not state this as the reason, he said: "The reality is that is better for patients to have a shorter length of stay whether they are a surgery or emergency admission."

What do you think about the possible closure of Washbrook ward? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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