Ludlow injuries unit closed again – we fear our community hospital and rural health services are being closed by stealth

Guest post from councillor Tracey Huffer.

One of the vital services that Ludlow Hospital provides is the minor injuries unit (MIU). People go there to be patched up or seek advice, alleviating pressure on overstretched A&E services in Shrewsbury, Hereford and Telford. For the last three days, the MIU has been closed due to staff shortages. It reopens today (Sunday). This is not the first time the hospital has struggled for staff. The MIU has been closed at short notice on at least three other occasions in the last six weeks.

I am worried that the closure is just one symptom of the decline of rural health services in Shropshire and Ludlow.

I very much fear that Ludlow Community Hospital is being closed by stealth. The way we are going, we may well see the loss of many of rural health services in the coming months.

Just on its own, the closure of the MIU would be cause for concern. There should be sufficient staff resources in place to cover sickness and other absence.

This is not the only closure of services at Ludlow Hospital.

It is only a year Stretton Ward was closed at seven days’ notice. We have seen a reduction of beds at Ludlow by more than a half and not all beds in the remaining Dinham Ward are in active use.

That means a local GP has just sent a dying patient into a nursing home because there are no available beds at our community hospital. That can’t be cost effective. It undermines the role of Ludlow Hospital as a community facility where people can recover from critical illnesses or pass away with their friends and family nearby.

The troubles at Ludlow Hospital are unfortunately just one part of a wider picture of pressure on health services across the county.

Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group is looking pretty shaky at present. It has a deficit of £14.5 million this year. NHS England recently rated the CCG ‘inadequate’ on four of five measures.

CCG_performance_2016

NHS England says the CCG is not a well-led organisation. It has poor control of finances and fails to plan adequately. On another measure, delegated functions, the CCG ‘requires improvement’. It has said the CCG could even be disbanded if its performance does not improve.

The last thing we need at the moment is major disruption of the management of local health services. We could well get that unless things improve dramatically in the next six months.

Here in Ludlow, we are now desperately worried for the future of the community hospital. Bed spaces have been cut by three-quarters in just a year. The Minor Injuries Unit is closed far too often.

We need the hospital as a centre for health services in Ludlow. If we lose it, health managers will centralise services in Shrewsbury and Telford. That won’t be good for a town like ours.

More than a quarter of people in Ludlow are already aged 65 or over (28%) and that figure is set to increase. A quarter of households have no car or van (25%). It takes more than an hour to get to the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital by public transport and a lot longer to the get to the Princes Royal in Telford. We need non-critical services provided here in Ludlow, otherwise people will need to use overstretched A&E services that take hours to get to.

Despite recent promises from Ludlow MP Philip Dunne that Ludlow Hospital will remain open, the Shropshire Community Health Trust will only commit to providing urgent care services in Ludlow. It runs the hospital but will not pledge to keep it open.

I despair for the future of rural health services in South Shropshire and Ludlow. We can’t just continue with piecemeal cuts and unscheduled shutdowns. We urgently need clarity on the future of Ludlow Community Hospital and rural health services in South Shropshire.

8 thoughts on “Ludlow injuries unit closed again – we fear our community hospital and rural health services are being closed by stealth

  1. I’m glad that you and/or Tracey were able to use the information about Shropshire CCG’s poor standing with NHS England sent to you in a comment on a previous post but, in fact, Shropshire CCG is rated ‘inadequate’ in 4 out of 5 measures and ‘requires improvement’ in the 5th…just saying…

    Also glad to see that you LDs might be waking up to the real danger that the whole of the NHS is in, Ludlow hospital does not exist in a vacuum.

    John H

  2. I’m not sure, John H, that this is the time for rather cheap party political points: these are two outstanding local councillors, and this is from someone who is not a Lib Dem. But you’re right about the importance of putting it about that Ludlow hospital does not exist in a vacuum. On an anecdotal level, I experienced outstanding service from the Ludlow MIU recently, with rapid referral to Hereford. But I am acutely (ahem!) aware that the whole Future Fit debate is conducted as if all the demand on acute services is some kind of act of God. University College London recently put a figure on the number of unnecessary premature deaths due to health inequality in England (which has the third highest level of inequality in the developed world): it’s 200,000 a year. And you know what, people get ill before they die early, and they need to go to hospital. Conservative Government policies are a huge engine of demand for NHS services: the determinants of health include housing, employment stress, and income inequality, and virtually everything this government does makes these demands increase. Not that you’d know, of course. You see this play out in great detail and on a huge scale here in Shropshire, particularly given an extraordinary level of incompetence. Prevention and community health services are the very least of our priorities, it appears.

  3. Is it possible to open up disused areas as ‘nursing, residential care homes’ where vacant space can be used and miu can remain. . Maybe it could be used by GP as a hospice? Ideas to keep it open should be explored.

    1. Nigel, your comment is well meant, but all these things require money. Perhaps we could afford more things if taxpayers’ money given to such people as Richard Branson to run our services were not increasingly ending up in tax havens.

  4. So much for Philip Dunne’s comment of 4/8″ Ludlow hospital will remain a hospital”At this rate it will be the only hospital with no beds.

  5. Andy The Guardian are trying to put together dossier on local health stories – sorry but can’t find link – rural needs to be there!

    Sent from my iPhone

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