‘Grave concerns’ over closure of Thirsk hospital ward

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A HEALTH watchdog has expressed grave concerns after “staffing pressures” led to the temporary closure of a rehabilitation and palliative care ward in Thirsk.

The 14-bed ward at Lambert Memorial Hospital will close next week, with patients already being sent to the Friarage Hospital in Northalllerton in preparation. It is likely to stay closed until early next year.

South Tees Hospitals Trust, which runs both sites, said services at Lambert were under “enormous strain” due to a number of staffing issues, including difficulties in filling vacant nursing posts, long-tern absence and getting sufficient temporary cover through NHS Professionals.

Six additional beds will also be opened on the Rutson Ward at the Friarage Hospital.

The Trust’s chief executive Professor Tricia Hart was at the meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s health scrutiny committee today, where members expressed concerns about the timing of the closure.

Committee chairman Coun Jim Clark said: “We are extremely concerned by this development, especially with winter approaching and the additional pressures this brings on the health service. We are especially unhappy that the South Tees Trust is not reviewing their decision until next January 2016 and that much-needed beds will be closed all that time.”

He called on the Trust to report back to their November meeting to update members.

Prof Hart said the decision to close the ward had not been taken lightly, and was “entirely based on the safety and welfare” of both patients and staff.

She said: “In recent months we’ve done a number of things to try and mitigate the risks on the service, including nursing staff from other hospitals providing cover, but this is now unsustainable and a key patient safety concern for us.”

She said services would be reviewed again in January.