Staff shortages lead to bed closures at Halesworth hospital

.The Patrick Stead Hospital, Halesworth.

.The Patrick Stead Hospital, Halesworth. - Credit: EDP pics © 2007

A shortage of senior staff at a small hospital has meant that inpatient beds have been closed for the next four months.

Staff working in Halesworth’s health services are reassuring patients that they will do their best to maintain high levels of care while the Patrick Stead Hospital inpatient beds close temporarily until March.

Meanwhile the problem of increasing long term care needs is being tackled by a local charity, which has big plans for the future.

Dr Richard Kell, chair of the charity Halesworth Health, said: “We are urging East Coast Community Healthcare (ECCH) who are currently contracted by the NHS to run the hospital services at Patrick Stead, to address the staff shortages which have caused the problem and ensure that the service will re-open as promised next March.

“In the meantime the health and social care staff are working hard to support patients during this time.”

However, it has been known for some time that Patrick Stead Hospital is at risk in the long term, as it is housed in a Victorian building that is expensive to maintain and difficult to adapt.

There is no provision in the NHS budget to upgrade or replace it, but the need for extra care, especially for the elderly, is increasing steadily.

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Halesworth Health have been moving forward with its own plans to create a new health and care centre in Halesworth.

Dr Kell said: “We propose that a suitable piece of land adjacent to the current facilities at Cutlers Hill should be bought and developed by an independent care provider. A number of organisations are interested and a preferred applicant will be chosen soon.

“The new centre would include flexible-use community beds for long term nursing care, for patients with dementia, respite care and those in need of palliative care. Crucially, this centre would have the equivalent of the current hospital inpatient beds, paid for by the NHS.

“This would allow patients who do not need to be in a district general hospital, but who cannot be looked after at home, to be cared for close to home and to their families (who may themselves be very elderly). Patients can be cared for by their own GP’s, with families and friends able to visit, rather than making the 55-60-mile return journey to a district hospital.”

The wide range of existing outpatient services and the day care for blood or drug infusion, offered at Patrick Stead Hospital, would continue. “Continuation of opportunities for training, and facilities for voluntary sector groups is vital.

“At present Cutlers Hill Surgery has one of the lowest rates of admission to the district general hospitals in the region, largely thanks to the range of services available to patients either locally or at home and to integrated services all on one site,” Dr Kell said.

Halesworth Health is working tirelessly to ensure that the excellent, but cost effective, health and social care services continue to be provided locally for Halesworth and the surrounding villages.

He added: “The NHS is just starting a public consultation about community services and beds in the Great Yarmouth and Waveney area. We are responding to this and listening carefully to local views in order to maintain and improve the current services. If you have any questions or comments please visit our website at or write to us c/o Cutlers Hill Surgery, Bungay Road, Halesworth IP19 8SG.”

ECCH are starting another recruitment drive in order to regain a full complement of nurses and are determined to re open the inpatient beds at the hospital in March 2015.

In the meantime patients that normally would have had beds at the Patrick Stead are being treated at Southwold or Beccles hospitals.