Fears are rising over the future of beds at Buckingham Community Hospital after the Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust confirmed they were planning on extending their ‘Care In The Community’ scheme to Buckingham.
The scheme, which was piloted in Marlow and Thame over a 12 month period from April 2017 to April 2018, is promoted as a way of providing better care for people in their homes but it also resulted in the closure of 20 overnight beds, apparently without any specific consultation with the local communities.
The closures caused public protests outside the hospitals and the launching of an online petition demanding the reopening of the hospital beds, which currently has almost 3,500 signatures.
Ozma Hafiz, who has headed other campaigns to save hospitals in the region, and who started the online petition, said:
“Bed closures were rushed through at Marlow and Thame without proper consultation and I’m deeply concerned the same will happen in Buckingham. It is clear that hospitals in our region are already struggling due to a lack of beds and any further closures would be completely unacceptable.”
District councillor Robin Stuchbury, who asked for clarity over the plans for the beds in Buckingham at the recent Health and Adult Social Care (HASC) select committee meeting, said:
“It’s important we put these matters into the public domain so that our beds are not silently removed without the full agreement and support of Buckingham and the surrounding villages.”
The Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust were approached for comment and their response will be added here when it comes through.
The next HASC committee meeting is on Tuesday 22 May.
Dr Tina Kenny, medical director at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust later issued the following statement.
She said: “We would like to reassure people that we have made no decisions nor developed plans relating to the beds at Buckingham Community Hospital.
“Our aim in developing community hubs has been to provide more local care to people in the community. This is based on what we’ve consistently heard from patients, who have told us that they wish to be supported to remain more independent and to stay out of hospital if at all possible. Through the two pilots currently taking place in Marlow and Thame, we have introduced a new assessment and treatment service, including a frailty assessment service where geriatricians, nurses, therapists and GPs provide expert assessment, undertake tests and agree a treatment plan to help frail older people to stay at home and avoid an A&E visit or hospital admission. This includes working with our community nursing and therapy teams who support people at home, more local outpatients clinics such as chemotherapy, and we are working closely with the voluntary sector.
“Feedback about the community hubs pilot from patients and stakeholders, including representatives from Marlow and Thame Community Hospitals’ League of Friends and patient participation groups of local GP practices, has been positive. Throughout the pilot the hospital spaces were used primarily for the assessment service, enabling healthcare staff to see twice the number of people the hospital wards were previously supporting through inpatient facilities. Whilst we haven’t been using the inpatient beds at Thame and Marlow, beds were available locally, but they haven’t been needed. Furthermore, the hubs are being used far more by local people from the Thame and Marlow areas than before the pilot began.
“We held a public engagement event in Buckingham earlier this year, attended by almost 60 people. Feedback from the group stated that they would welcome the development of a community hub tailored to local needs, and we have agreed to continue to work with staff, patients, GPs and local communities to discuss and design what type of hub would best meet those needs.”