Hospital ward to close
PUBLISHED: 07:00 03 August 2018
A hospital ward that struggled to recruit consultants and had patients staying for more than double the time it was designed for will close, it has been confirmed.
At a special council scrutiny meeting on July 30, it was confirmed the Elizabeth Ward at Orpington Hospital would be shut just 18 months after it opened.
Hospital bosses will close the frailty unit at the hospital following high costs and targets not being met.
The ward provides short-term care for frail elderly patients transferred from the Princess Royal University Hospital (PRUH) in Farnborough.
The King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust was plunged into financial special measures last year, and said that closing the ward would be the most beneficial thing to do.
Matthew Trainer, managing director at PRUH, said the ward was receiving “far sicker” patients than the 19-bed short-term ward was designed to cope with.
Mr Trainer said: “We had patients staying for in excess of 15, 16 days, rather than four or five.
“As a result, the model of care we had in place wasn’t quite geared up to deal with the complex patients we were receiving.
“We had a number of staffing challenges, we were supposed to have three-and-a-half consultants, we’ve only managed to recruit one.
“In the year to April, we spent £600,000 on agency staff – higher costs than the model is designed to cope with.”
The Elizabeth and Churchill wards were both opened last January based on research that suggested the frailty bed model would work well in an area with an ageing population – especially over the winter period.
However, Mr Trainer said: “The benefits we hoped to get out of length of stay, patient mix and staffing- that was being undermined because the model wasn’t working and that was pushing up costs to a point where we were losing lots of money running Elizabeth and Churchill.”
Councillors were told patients with more complex needs were being transferred to the ward, and therefore staying for longer than the original business plan anticipated.
Cllr Keith Onslow said it was disappointing that 18 months after the council was sold this model by the hospital, it is being closed.
He said at the meeting: “I remember this unit being opened and there was excitement around it. The ward had a predominance for elderly people and we saw it as a great benefit, so this has come with some disappointment.
“Was this a failure of the business model to start with? Because it seems as though somebody thought it was a good idea and just set it up to hope it would come together at the end. It doesn’t seem to have been managed very well.”
Councillors were told the ward was opened sooner than bosses intended in order to cope with pressures, and that running two wards was not viable for the hospital to make much-needed savings.
The Churchill ward will remain open, and the Elizabeth ward will be re-purposed to offer short-term support.
Shelley Dolan, the chief operating officer at PRUH, said the ward would be reused for models that would avoid readmission to hospital.
New models are being considered, including community and “virtual ward” to manage patients in the ward for tests and short-term care before being discharged to have more support in their own home.
Councillors heard elderly frail patients lose bone mass by staying in a hospital ward for long periods of time, and it would be more beneficial to provide services in residents’ homes.
The hospital bosses said the new system would keep elderly residents out of hospital beds, which would be better for them when they are frail and allow the hospital to cut costs by avoiding inpatients.
The Elizabeth Ward will begin to close next month.