Hull Royal Infirmary ward to shut as NHS trust looks to save £21m

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A ward is to close and two others will merge at Hull Royal Infirmary as an NHS trust tries to save £21m this year.

Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which has to make £95m budget savings over the next five years, says 46 beds in total will go.

A general medical ward will close and two others, neurology and stroke, will merge at the hospital.

The trust says there are no plans for redundancies, with all staff to be redeployed.

A final decision is expected at a board meeting in December.

Earlier this year it emerged that the hospital was planning to close 300 beds over five to 10 years, an announcement which caused unions serious concern, as they amount to 20 per cent of capacity.

Regional officer for Unison Ray Gray said: “We expected at some point to be told two were closing. We had a previous discussion with the chief executive last week, so this didn’t come out of the blue.

“Our main concern is what happens in years two, three and four, when you start eating into the wards that are left, and then it will be impossible to do it without patients and people providing services feeling pain.”

Around 170 staff are expected to leave the trust over the next five years – equating to two per cent of the 8,700 employed at HRI and Castle Hill Hospital – through “natural wastage”, when they retire or change jobs.

Ruth Marsden, vice-chair of the National Association Of Local Involvement Network Members, which promotes patient and public involvement in health and social care, yesterday criticised the “conspicuous lack of honest sharing” over the trust’s plans.

She cited a recent report by the Department of Health, which revealed over 4,000 hospital beds had been closed in the UK this year, but costs had risen by half a billion pounds.

She said: “My concern is motivation and methodology; if you look at the trust’s strategic document they speak eloquently about involving patients and users, but this kind of thing seems to break upon us without warning.

“There is a conspicuous lack of honest sharing, which is very disappointing.”

One of the main problems for the hospital is the number of people turning up at accident and emergency with a problem which could be treated by their GP, or other form of primary care.

To try and reduce the number, the hospital has embarked on a £7m makeover, dividing walk-in patients from emergency ambulance admissions.

NHS Hull is expanding its GP service at the hospital from three days a week, to seven days a week from 10am to 10pm, and adding extra services, including mental and sexual health.

By April 2013 it will introduce a new NHS 111 non-emergency number for people to find out where they can get the most appropriate treatment.

The trust’s chief executive Phil Morley said the Links criticism was “slightly unfair”, having he said, spoken to them a couple of months ago about the plans.

Mr Morley said a fifth of patients in the 1,500 beds at the two hospitals didn’t need acute care and should be cared for in the community, citing the case of a patient from Hornsea who had been in hospital for six months, his wife travelling into the city every day to see him.

He said the changes were being led by a group of doctors and nurses at the hospital.

He added: “If we can close one ward it means we can put 30 nurses on other wards which can be stretched at times.

“£250m is the challenge we face (as a region). We face £95m in the hospital.

“I am absolutely confident we can meet this challenge.”

He added: “This is not about saying: ‘Here’s a plan.’ This is saying what ideas do you have? That’s why the top four doctors and nurses are leading this not the managers.

“The frontline is saying: ‘What can we do differently?’”

alex.wood@ypn.co.uk