NHS commissioners plan to close 47 beds at Cheadle Hospital at the end of September – on top of the recent reduction of 57 beds at Longton and Haywood hospitals and a further 65 beds at three nursing homes in the area.
Clinical Commissioning Groups that plan and fund NHS services in North Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent insist fewer community hospital beds are needed because more patients will receive care at home.
But the RCN is concerned that adequate community health and social care provision as an alternative to hospital admission is not yet in place – and closing community beds could leave services too thinly-stretched to cope with demand during the coming winter.
Lorna Deans, the RCN’s Operational Manager in the West Midlands, said: “We feel it’s reasonable to question whether the rest of the health and social care system in North Staffordshire is geared up to withstand the impact of the closure of so many community hospital beds and ensure patients continue to receive safe and good standards of care.
'It's a big chunk of the health service'
“It’s a big chunk of the health service that is being de-commissioned and it’s a very valuable chunk in terms of relieving the relentless pressure on beds at Royal Stoke University Hospital.
“We support the idea of patients being cared for at home where it is safe and appropriate for their condition and needs, but that care must be properly assessed, arranged and resourced.
“We know that district nurses in North Staffordshire are already managing very high caseloads – so much so that other specialist nurses are stepping in to support them by visiting patients.
“Patients and nurses need to be assured that these changes will work, that people who need care outside of hospital will get it and that it will continue to be of good quality.”