Grassroots campaign groups met in Ilkeston on Tuesday night to discuss how best to oppose plans to axe half of the beds at the town’s hospital.
NHS campaigners, supporters of the Protect Ilkeston Community Hospital Facebook page, Labour Party representatives, hospital staff, and other concerned residents met to discuss the plans which were revealed last month.
They heard from health experts and discussed the context in which Derby and Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is making the case for changes in the way its services are delivered.
Bradd Farnsworth, 26, who set up the Facebook page, said: “My mum worked at the hospital until recently and I know other staff who are frustrated by job losses and cuts when the demand for care is so high.
“The ‘care in the community’ model being proposed is not right for many patients, but they do want a hospital close to home. It’s better to have patients to be completely rested and recuperated in a controlled environment rather than take chances with them going home too early.”
He added: “As a local resident I am tired of Ilkeston in general being second best when it comes to surrounding areas, and we don’t deserve it, we’re tired of fighting to keep our town going.
“Why should Ilkeston lose beds and staffing levels to compensate incompetent budget management from those higher up.”
Part of the meeting was dedicated to discussion of the CCG’s finances, with the organisation attempting to cut £69.5million from its budget this year.
As well as disagreements about the most effective clinical care approach, there is also a political dimension to the row.
Erewash MP Maggie Throup gave assurances that there would be no further cuts to bed numbers after initially reductions to the hospital’s capacity last year.
Catherine Atkinson, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate, said: “Of course a hospital is more than just beds, but if you take out beds, staff and patients - eventually it becomes just an empty building.
“But in recent years we have seen cut after cut. We saw bed cuts and ward closures in 2012. The Walk in Centre and GP surgery were closed in 2013. They closed the Minor Injuries Unit at night in 2014 and cut the hours again last year.
“This is not improving services. It is cutting services. Five years ago we had 44 beds, last year we had 32. Reducing beds to 16 is a huge blow not only to our community but to everyone who will see greater pressure at other hospitals including in Nottingham and Derby.”
She added: “After the last public meeting the MP promised no bed cuts. It is important that she is held to account on that pledge.
“We’ve had a hospital in Ilkeston for over 100 years. I want to ensure that we still have one for the next 100.”
CCG representatives and Erewash MP Maggie Throup were invited to the meeting but did not attend.
Contrary to online speculation that the MP refused to take part, she was actually required in London for parliamentary votes on important legislation related to Northern Ireland.
Maggie said: “Any changes to the provision at the hospital must always have the best outcome for patients at its heart.
“I do have concerns about some of the proposed changes at the hospital which I will be sharing with the clinical commissioning group and I trust that will help to influence their final plans.”
Another meeting of opposition groups is planned for early August.
The CCG is hosting its own drop-in event at Charnos Hall on the hospital site, 2–6pm, on Mondays, July 15 and 29, and August 12, as part of a public consultation process.
It is also running a survey of residents online at https://bit.ly/2YfX6Kp.
CCG bosses say the cut in bed numbers will allow them to offer ten more spaces for care at home, and eight more spaces for supportive bed care in other settings such as nursing homes.
They believe a research study carried out in February and March shows that alternative pathways would better suit most patients coming out of acute care at the hospital, and support faster recovery.
CCG medical director Dr Steve Lloyd said: “We want to make sure the right kind of care is available for patients to recover more quickly and closer to – or even in - their own homes.
“We understand talk about changing bed numbers at a local hospital may sound concerning but our plans are to increase the availability of care overall – not reduce it.
“There are excellent NHS staff and services in Ilkeston already so all we intend to do is ensure the balance of what’s offered keeps up with the type of care patients’ need – that way we can look after them in the right way.”
He added: “The focus is on providing the best quality of care and the NHS as a whole is moving towards providing care closer to home wherever possible.
“We welcome people from across the community to come and talk to us about this and ask any questions they might have.”