The Clinical Commissioning Group is planning to reduce the number of beds at community hospitals in Shropshire by around 40%. At Ludlow, this would mean a reduction from 24 to 14 beds. The CCG’s intention is to rely more on community services and adult social care to ensure the wellbeing of patients that would otherwise have been treated at Ludlow.

BBC Radio Shropshire is reporting today that the Shropshire Community Health Trust is saying it is not responsible for the plans. It is seeking urgent discussions with the CCG “to understand its reasoning.” This shows just how dysfunctional our local health system has become. The autocratic behaviour of the CCG has all but wrecked the Future Fit programme to modernise health services in the county. Now it is imposing changes on community hospitals without consultation with the trust that runs them.

This lack of communication and consultation between the CCG and community health trust is regrettably not new. Last year, the CHT closed Stretton Ward at Ludlow Hospital without telling the CCG.

The CCG has already suggested that there will be no funding available for its Community Fit programme – the proposed successor to Future Fit. It has delayed a decision on a single A&E for Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin until the summer of 2017. Meanwhile, ambulances queue outside A&E departments and sometimes there are no ambulances available at all in Shropshire.

This is chaos. Funding is tight and demands are increasing. But in Shropshire, the problems currently seem to lie in in health service management as well as resources. Always when resources are short, its services based in rural areas that suffer.

Speaking about the CCG’s proposed cuts to community hospital beds, Tracey Huffer, Shropshire Councillor for Ludlow East and a practising nurse, says the plans will be harmful to the health of patients.

“I despair for the future of hospital services in South Shropshire.”

“Once again we are to see community services cut back despite the desperate need for local beds. Health managers seem to expect community service teams and local GPs to care for people who would usually be in hospital. This won’t work without huge extra funding and that money is not available. Elderly and vulnerable people who should be in hospital will be left in isolation at home with infrequent medical visits.”

“These plans are driven by budgets and overspends in the health system, not the needs of patients. The whole idea of Future Fit was that we would have a joined up approach to health services across Shropshire and Telford. But there is nothing joined up about this proposal which simply tries to move the costs from hospital to community care.”

“A reduction in beds will threaten the future of Ludlow hospital itself. Stretton Ward was closed in summer 2015. Shropdoc, which works out of the hospital, is threatened by moves to merge it with the national 101 service. With a further reduction in beds, health managers are bound to ask why they should keep any hospital facility in Ludlow.”

“I have written to Councillor Gerald Dakin, chair of the health and adult social care scrutiny committee, asking for urgent inquiry into plans to reduce community hospital beds. In particular, the committee should look at the impact the plans will have on rural communities, especially in the south of the county.”

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