Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Launceston Hospital beds 'hope to be back open by the end of the year or early next'

This morning, councillors got the chance to hear from and quiz the boss of Peninsula Community Health - the company that runs cottage hospitals in Cornwall including Launceston Hospital. There has been a lot of concern at the number of bed closures in these hospitals, including 7 of the 20 beds in Launceston.

Although some of the closures have been due to refurbishment, most are down to lack of staff and problems recruiting new staff. In Launceston, much of the problem was because staff were borrowed from Stratton Hospital while that was being refurbished and, when it re-opened the staff went back forcing bed closures in Launceston.

What we were told by Kevin Baber, the Chief Exec of PCH, is that they are recruiting staff but the process takes time. He says he hopes to have some of the closed beds at Launceston re-opened by the end of the year or early in 2013.

To be honest, I was not impressed by the explanations given and hardly comforted by the lack of a firm plan for re-opening these beds. I appreciate that you cannot hold on to staff forever, but the turnover rate of 12% per year seems extraordinarily high and staff I talked to complain of very low morale. And who can blame them when the same problems afflict our cottage hospitals year after year.

Despite the bed closures, Mr Baber told councillors that his organisation was coming close to delivering on their contracted targets. My complaint is that the NHS is far too concerned with ticking boxes on contracts. I think the people of Cornwall expect cottage hospitals to have all their beds open the whole time and wouldn't be impressed with statistics that showed that they were 'only' failing to meet targets by around 5%.

I was moved to ask whether the current PCH set up is truly fit for purpose. What's clear is that they need to do a lot more to reassure patients and other residents in Cornwall that they are able to provide the comprehensive service that we all expect.

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