The Spencer Ward at Buxton’s Cavendish Hospital could close as early as May next year health chiefs have revealed.
The ward, which looks after older people’s mental health, was due to be shut in 2020 but has been moved forward.
Hardwick Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and North Derbyshire CCG voted in July to permanently close 16 beds at Cavendish and reduce the number of beds on Fenton ward in a controversial cost-cutting exercise which they feel will enable more people to be cared for at home and reduce hospital admissions.
A spokesperson for Better Care Closer to Home, behind the proposal, said: “The implementation plan and associated timeline is still in development.
“As it currently stands, the Dementia Rapid Response Team (DRRT) is due to become operational in the High Peak and Dales early in the New Year and will care for older people with urgent mental healthcare needs.
“Nothing will change on Spencer Ward until we are satisfied that the DRRT is operating as a suitable and high quality alternative, which we anticipate will be in May 2018.
“However, we are now in the process of scrutinising the plan to see if the suggested timeline works from an operational, workforce and financial point of view. Staff are involved in these discussions and following this exercise, the timeline may be revised.”
Tim Oddy, chairman of The League Of Friends Of Buxton Hospitals, said: “This is disastrous.
“The feeling on the ward is very low and staff who thought they would have years to find another job now just have months.
“Everyone fought so hard to keep the ward open but I feel it was already a done deal and now our wonderful staff are going to be dispersed and patient care will suffer.”
High Peak MP Ruth George said: “Things are not happening as promised and we need to make the patients care a priority.” The CCGs said there would be a Dementia Rapid Response Team in place before any closure but Mrs George is concerned as other wards across the county have already started closing without this provision in place.
She said: “The service needs to be set up well in advance so it is established but where will the staff come from?
“We have specialist staff on Spencer ward but they need to continue to provide a service to the patients in our area so who will be brought in to look after the most vulnerable people in our community.”
The Dementia Rapid Response Team will be on call county-wide from 8am to 8pm but all acute admissions will be made to Walton Hospital in Chesterfield.
Tim Oddy added: “I worry that only time will show how bad this is not just for the patients but family and friends too. I believe hospital bosses are planning to take a bus from Buxton to Chesterfield to see how people will cope but it very much seems as though they are shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.”