The decision to close.. is of great concern to me as a county resident, ex NHS employee and a Councillor in Gloucester | Cllr Deborah Smith

“The decision to close two of our local Community Hospitals, Dilke and Lydney in the Forest of Dean and replace with one smaller one has recently been made by Gloucestershire Care Services and the local Clinical Commissioning Group. It is of great concern to me as a county resident, ex NHS employee and a Councillor in Gloucester, and its why I’m proud to support HOLD in their Campaign to save both hospitals, for the residents of the Forest of Dean and of our county.

The consultation about this proposal focused solely on Forest of Dean residents, which I feel made the consultation less than comprehensive. Community Hospitals are a county resource; the inpatient beds and the services they contain can and are used by all of Gloucestershire’s residents. The whole county should have been consulted about these huge changes which will mean a substantial decrease in inpatient bed numbers and will certainly impact on services elsewhere.

The dominant theme of this proposed change is Care Closer to Home, and understandably most patients would prefer to be looked after at home or closer to it. However, this can only happen if there are sufficient resources to make this a safe and appropriate option, including more GP’s, more District Nurses, more “other professionals” including Physio’s and OT’s. Of course, all of this is underpinned by more money.

Are these boxes ticked in the Forest of Dean or Gloucestershire? There is a national shortage of GPs, Radiographers and District Nurses; across England we have lost 50% of our district nursing staff since 2010. Gloucestershire Care Services currently has this staff group on their risk register due to the dwindling numbers.

So, who exactly is going to be caring for patients? Social Care? Well, we are all acutely aware of the state of social care, plus that is a contributory service. It is more likely that patients will end up in Gloucester Royal, which is already under increasing strain. Closing beds in the community simply shifts the problem somewhere else in the system.

There is no evidence of under-utilisation of community inpatient beds in Gloucestershire either; in fact, they were occupied 96.3% of the time in January 2018, they are clearly needed so why are they proposing to close at least 24 of them? Especially given the identified expected increase in population across our county?

Another main argument of this proposal is that a shiny new one-site hospital will attract staff and services. This is debatable because:
1. There is a shortage of staff across the whole of the NHS. Where are these new staff coming from?
2. There is no incentive in our increasingly privatised, and internal market driven NHS for providers such as Gloucestershire Hospitals Trust to place services distant from their main acute sites. It is simply not cost effective for them to do so. So, who will provide the service?

Finally, alternative forms of care are likely to be proposed to replace these inpatient beds, so I want to make one thing clear. Voluntary, CIC -Community Interest Groups, Charity, Not for Profit, Social Enterprises ARE not Public Sector provision, they are not National Health Service Providers, they are private providers in all but name and mean exactly the same thing: money being siphoned out of our National Health Service”

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