One of the main aims of the NHS over the next few years is to re-focus the support it offers for people suffering ill-health.
Care and treatment will be increasingly provided in people’s own homes and in their own communities rather than in hospital or long-term residential care. This transition has been the subject of a major public consultation in North Derbyshire called ‘Better Care Closer to Home’.
The process has resulted in the decision to close Bolsover and Newholme Community Hospitals. In its place will be a combination of services provided either at home or from sites within local communities such as the Dementia Rapid Response Team, Community Mental Health Team, and the Integrated Care Service.
From engagement with members of the public it is clear that people do want better care as close to home as possible. No one particularly wants to go to hospital if they can be cared for at home or in a local community service. Therefore, in principle, there is agreement with the plans to provide more care in the community.
However, there is equal concern that sick people who need inpatient care should be able to receive it and we have taken comfort in the promise that effective new services will be in place before beds and community hospitals are closed.
Healthwatch Derbyshire is picking up a distinct lack of trust amongst members of the public that this will be the case, and as a result we have successfully secured a place on the programme’s Implementation Team to oversee this promise on behalf of the people of Derbyshire.
We echo the public’s concerns even more so having learnt recently about difficulties in recruiting healthcare staff to work at these hospitals in light of future closures. As a result, we understand that it may not be possible to keep services at the Riverside Ward at Newholme Community Hospital in Bakewell and provision at Bolsover Hospital could also be under threat.
We are obviously very concerned that this will have a detrimental effect on local communities if appropriate community services are not in place before hospital wards close. Although this is an issue mainly in the North of Derbyshire currently, we know that similar conversations have taken place with residents in Belper and in the south of the county with regard to the proposed re-location of the services provided by Babington Hospital. It is therefore important that lessons are learnt from these issues in the north when planning service changes elsewhere in the county.
Healthwatch Derbyshire has sent a clear message to commissioners of health services in the county that they must commit to open and transparent conversations with members of the public. We all need to know the facts and the implications on local communities of key factors such as recruitment issues or lack of finance.
Members of the public have taken the time and trouble to engage in consultation but they must have all the facts at their disposal to provide an accurate and worthwhile response.
We will continue to advocate on behalf of the public but I appeal to those in positions of authority that they take the engagement and consultation process seriously as the transition from inpatient to community care gathers pace.