An MP has expressed grave concerns over a proposal to repurpose a 28-bed hospital ward mostly used by the elderly – and accused health chiefs of ‘passing the buck’.
Tim Farron spoke out after it was revealed the Langdale Unit at Kendal’s Westmorland General Hospital could soon cease to exist in its current form.
Health bosses are suggesting the £3m-per-year cost of running the unit be reinvested in nurses, physios and occupational therapists in the community.
It is being argued that extra bodies in roles such as these would enable more elderly people to ‘remain at or close to their homes’ and ‘avoid unnecessary hospital admissions’.
But Mr Farron, who represents the Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency, felt such a scheme would ultimately end up placing more pressure on care homes.
“This feels like a decision which makes life easier for NHS managers, but makes it harder for people running care homes, who are in a far worse situation than hospitals,” he said.
“They are not going to invent a couple of extra care homes to cope with this.”
He felt the move would mean the NHS was ‘passing the buck to the weaker sector’ and pointed out the care sector was suffering from a staffing crisis.
Dr William Lumb, clinical director for community care at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT), said it was ‘time to think carefully’ about whether ‘community beds’ in hospitals were an appropriate method of caring for the elderly.
“Independent, expert reviews have shown that, in hospital, older people can begin to lose mobility and the ability to look after themselves,” he said.
“The sooner we can get them back to the familiarity of home – or better still, avoid hospital admission in the first place – the better their recovery.”
A repurposing of the Langdale Unit would see it used for ‘the kind of services that can only be delivered in a hospital’ such as the provision of beds for people immediately after operations.
UHMBT and the Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group have initiated a period of public consultation, which will last until December 31, over the proposal.
Vist tinyurl.com/4cp3rz56 to submit the survey online or call 01524 519 369 for a paper copy.