Members of the public went head-to-head with health bosses and local MP Victoria Atkins at a fiery public meeting on Louth hospital’s future on Friday evening (October 5).
The packed meeting, held at the Royal British Legion Hall in Louth, saw bosses from Lincolnshire East CCG defend plans to reduce patient bed numbers in Manby and Carlton wards at the hospital.
As reported, the number of beds was ‘temporarily’ reduced from 50 to 16 in both wards last summer while fire safety works were carried out.
Last month, it was confirmed that Lincolnshire East CCG is currently asking the public for their views on two proposals - to have either 16 or 20 beds across these wards - with a focus on developing a ‘home first’ approach to care, where patients are treated in their local community.
However, concerns have been raised that a permanent reduction in beds would be a step towards downgrading the hospital - with many patients, councillors and staff airing such views at the meeting.
Following introductory presentations, Victoria Atkins MP grilled the panel - which included the CCG’s chief finance officer Sandra Williamson and East Lindsey representative Dr Neal Parkes - with concerns she received from her constituents.
Ms Atkins said: “A number of people have written to me regarding the promise last year that 50 beds would be restored after the essential fire renovation works.
“This isn’t happening, and the question people are posing is: how can we trust you?”
Dr Parkes responded that re-opening 40 beds (the new limit under latest guidance) would be very easy, but would not necessarily improve outcomes for patients - and added the NHS had to seek better ways of providing healthcare for the population.
He added: “At the first moment we can get you home, with the adequate package of care, that has got to be in the best interests.
“My grandfather would always say, if you’re ill, the worst place to be is in hospital.
“If you haven’t got pneumonia before you go in hospital, while Mr or Mrs Smith next door is coughing their bacterial virus, you’re going to get it by the end of it. “You could have been admitted simply because you’ve fallen, and actually what needs to happen is we need to get you up and about, as soon as possible, and have an occupational therapist to look at your house and try and prevent you falling again.”
He said muscle wasting for older people in hospital beds is ‘horrendous’, and added the number of beds should not be the ‘currency’ for determining the system’s success - but added the situation could be looked at again in the future if it isn’t successful.
Louth mayor, Coun George Horton, addressed the panel about the combined effect of an ageing population and the expected growth in the town and surrounding area, particularly with thousands of inland homes designated for East Lindsey in the coming years thanks to the Local Plan.
Coun Horton said: “With all this happening and going on, you insist on reducing services at a main hospital?
“Now, this can’t be right. I suggest you go back to the drawing board, take all these possibilities in hand, and start going back and looking again.”
The CCG responded that they were looking at ‘changing’ - rather than ‘downgrading’ - the services at the hospital.
Dr Parkes added that, as population grows, the wards and services at the hospital may be expanded once again.
Louth resident, Angela Farmer quoted a report which blamed ‘under-performing’ NHS areas on a lack of doctors, nurses, and hospital beds.
She accused the panel of proposing ‘wizard ideas’, and added: ‘What we need is beds!’
When Victoria Atkins suggested these figures were out-of-date and claimed there are now thousands more doctors and nurses than in 2010, the resident shouted: “That is not true. Your government is chopping our National Health Service!”
One member of public, a healthcare support worker at the hospital, explained how the two wards worked together, with patients getting acute care on Manby ward and then moving to Carlton ward for rehabilitation - and only returning to Manby ward if they had a relapse.
She asked: “Why are you trying to fix something that wasn’t broken?”
The CCG panel replied that healthcare is ‘constantly changing’ and will be adapted to look to the future, and Dr Parkes added that he’s seen ‘a system under increasing pressure’ and that things needed to be done differently - and that such change needed to be embraced for the future.
Louth Town Council will be holding another public meeting with Lincolnshire East CCG next Thursday (October 18) at St James’ Church, starting at 6.45pm.
The meeting will be chaired by the Mayor of Louth, Coun George Horton, and it will be ‘non-political’.
Members of the public are also invited to fill in Lincolnshire East CCG’s survey on the proposals, available at: www.surveymonkey.com/r/louthwards.
• Visit the Louth Leader’s Facebook page to watch the full video of last week’s meeting.
• Pick up today’s edition of the Leader to read what ELDC leader Craig Leyland and the Fighting 4 Louth Hospital campaigners had to say after the meeting.