THE closure of the Johnson Ward at Buxton’s Cottage Hospital – the last operational ward in the building – has prompted fears that the future of the 100-year-old facility is hanging in the balance.
Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Trust last week announced that the Johnson Ward was to be merged with the Burlington Ward at the Cavendish Hospital, on the Cavendish Hospital site.
The decision has caused concern that time could now be running out for Buxton Hospital, which is due to celebrate its centenary later this year, and will also lose the Corbar Birth Centre from July.
High Peak MP Andrew Bingham confirmed this week that he only became aware of the trust’s decision after being contacted by the Buxton Advertiser.
He said: “Naturally I’m concerned because I would have thought they (the trust) would have let me know before they went public on it.”
And he added: “I am concerned (about the hospital’s future) because with Corbar going and now this, it does worry me a great deal that we are seeing the erosion of facilities in Buxton for the High Peak and I want to know why.”
Dr Sean King, chair of the High Peak Clinical Commissioning Group, who are set to take control of local NHS budgets from April 2013, also confirmed that he hadn’t been consulted on the plans for Johnson Ward.
The trust have said, however, there are “no immediate plans to close Buxton Hospital.”
Commenting on the ward closure, Dr King added: “It is a decision they have made on the basis of their experience of bed numbers.
“We would be very keen that services aren’t interrupted or jeopardised in any way.
“There is enormous pressure on NHS resources and we are going to be trying to do our very best to maintain services locally and to the best quality possible in what are difficult times.”
Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Trust, who run Buxton Hospital and Cavendish Hospital, said the wards were merging because improvements to health services mean patients are spending less time in hospital, leading to spare bed capacity.
William Jones, Director of Service Delivery for the trust, said: “We’re fully committed to providing hospital services in Buxton in the future. With advances in technology and treatments and by working more efficiently across our services it is inevitable that fewer people will need long stays in a hospital bed, which means the role of the hospitals will almost certainly change in the future.
“This was the main theme of the Healthy Buxton proposals (the blueprint for NHS plans in the area), which highlighted the need for new health facilities in Buxton in the future.
“We intend to revisit the Healthy Buxton project as we develop our plans for the future.”
The trust said staff will be consulted about the changes, but they don’t expect to have to make any redundancies. “Where necessary we will manage this process through redeployments to other hospitals where vacancies already exist.
“Staffing models have also been reviewed in terms of skills and numbers to ensure we have a consistent, fair and equitable approach across the county,” a spokesperson said.
And when questioned about the future of Buxton Hospital, the trust said: “There are no immediate plans to close Buxton Hospital.
“Local NHS commissioners and Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Trust both firmly believe there is a long-term need for hospital services in the area.
“The ever-increasing regulation of safety, quality and patient experience in NHS services means that the current facilities in Buxton will not be fit for purpose in the long-term and doing nothing is not an option.
“We will conclude our current services review during spring 2012 and will then need to revisit the options for redeveloping healthcare facilities in Buxton.
“These options (which included a plan for a brand new hospital) were previously reviewed as part of the Healthy Buxton project, but the financial climate has changed since then.
“Despite this, we remain committed to delivering high quality, integrated services in Buxton which are well coordinated between all providers involved.
“We do have plans in development for other services to move into the space currently available at Buxton Hospital and hope to make further announcements shortly.”
The trust have denied the decision to close Johnson Ward is down to cost-cutting, adding: “This project is not about saving money – it is focused on re-providing the existing service from a newly refurbished purpose-built ward offering an improved environment and experience for our patients.
“We are absolutely committed to caring for the same number of patients each year.
“Over the last two years we have assessed the way in which we care for our patients, making services more efficient, providing greater intensity of care and ultimately seeing patients are helped to get fitter, quicker.
“Any efficiency savings that can be made will be reinvested into patient care.”
The Burlington Ward is currently being refurbished with all patients being treated on Johnson Ward. It is expected that the work will be completed and patients admitted to the ward, which will have 18 beds, during April.