The campaign to halt plans to axe half of the community hospital beds in north Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent, with the total closure of beds in four of the five hospitals, which we reported in the first pilot issue of The Lowdown, is continuing, and now the North Staffs Pensioners Convention (NSPC) has published a detailed response.

The two clinical commissioning groups published slightly revised plans last December, which would result in some hospital sites being sold off and all the beds at Leek, Longton, Cheadle and Bradwell hospitals set to close for good

These were the latest retread of the unpopular ‘My Care My Way – Home First’ proposals which were challenged by Stoke on Trent city council and subsequently heavily criticised in December 2017 by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel, which noted that:

“Nearly three years after proposing the new model, the NHS has not yet demonstrated the case for change.

“The NHS has failed so far to show the capabilities required properly to implement My Care My Way – Home First […]

“Although there has been extra investment in out-of-hospital services, the closure of community beds to date is associated with cost cutting rather than the implementation of better services with improved outcomes for patients.”

The IRP also commented that “Without a solid case for change, the NHS has not established a robust programme for change and experienced a number of false starts. The bed modelling presented to the Committee in September 2015, has proved entirely incorrect and misleading.”

And it agreed with the council and campaigners in dismissing the specious claims by the CCGs that the closures they had implemented were only “temporary”:

“The myth of temporary closures is reinforced by the NHS confirming that they have no plans to reopen the beds and that their financial plans for the last two years rely on almost £10m of savings from the closures.”

However the Panel decided not to carry out a full review or call for the CCGs’ plans to be dropped, despite renewed local calls for the beds to be reopened.

The NSPC response, published in their May bulletin, underlines the consequences of the CCGs’ irresponsible attempts to make cuts by closing 187 beds, and commissioning 55 places in privately run care homes:

“The impact of your reckless closure of Community Hospital beds has already been felt across the local Health system – particularly on the Royal Stoke Hospital and waiting times at the Accident and Emergency department.”

They go on to show the problem of relying on poor quality care homes

“in practice, you have commissioned beds in Brighton House – that found Legionella in the water pipes, and Stadium Court that was deemed inadequate by the CQC and closed to new entrants. […] Of 86 beds that you commission from the independent care home sector, 51 are in homes that require improvement. This is a complete failure to safeguard the people in your care.”

So far there is little sign of any change of direction by the CCGs, who seem determined to add further proof for campaigners who argue that NHS rhetoric about “integration” and new services is simply a smokescreen for greater dependence on profit-seeking care homes and short-sighted cutbacks.

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