Dr John Smith: KGH plans to close wards is scary

KGH's plans to close a ward is scary, says Dr John Smith
KGH's plans to close a ward is scary, says Dr John Smith
Share this article

I don’t like scare stories but I am going to give you one.

This country has far fewer hospital beds than almost every country in Europe.

We have 2.95 beds per 1000 people; France has 6.37 and Germany 8.27.

This is a big difference.

Even when you allow for different health care systems the difference is huge.

No wonder patients wait in ambulances, no wonder four-hour accident and emergency limits are broken, no wonder patients are moved from ward to ward as they and beds are literally shuffled, no wonder there is a pressure to discharge them home too quickly or to nursing homes miles away from their relatives.

Hospitals need empty beds.

It allows for flexibility; it reduces the pressure to discharge sooner than is clinically advisable; it stops the unacceptable movement of patients from ward to ward.

It allows time for really effective discharge planning, for better communication between doctors, nurses, patients and families.

Every time a patient is moved to another ward, the nurses have to learn about them and build a relationship.

Let me be blunt, not having enough beds is dangerous.

So what are they planning at Kettering General Hospital?

To close a ward and later this year possibly another.

Systems have been introduced to reduce the number of medical outliers on surgical wards, so close a surgical ward.

We have had a quiet winter, the weather has been kind, and there has not been the pressure on beds that a bad winter brings.

New systems need testing and I doubt if they have been.

Only a few weeks ago I heard of an elderly patient who was moved nine times in two weeks, that is nine different wards.

I have heard many similar stories and, no doubt, so have you.

The hospital will save £800,000, it will not go to care in the community and I do not think it will save you or me.

An empty bed is not a wasted bed; it is the basis of a caring, compassionate health service.

And let me leave you with one more thought, what will happen when we have 20,000 new homes, 80,000 new residents and an increasingly ageing population?

Will we still be tinkering then?