U-turn over plans to axe 34 borough hospital beds

Beds won't be axed at Wigan Infirmary
Beds won't be axed at Wigan Infirmary

Wigan hospital beds earmarked for closure have been retained after a U-turn by health chiefs.

A member of the public raised concerns about the proposed cuts at a recent board meeting of NHS Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group.

But Dr Tim Dalton, who chairs the equivalent Wigan body, said today that the plans have since changed.

It was a report published earlier this year, called Wigan Borough CCG Commissioning Intentions 2017-18, which said it may be possible to close 34 acute beds as part of a programme aimed at providing more services in the community, so patients could stay at home rather than be admitted to hospital.

But demand for beds then increased and they were not axed after all.

Dr Dalton said: “As part of the Wigan Borough Locality Plan, all health and social care organisations within the borough are committed long-term to offering more services within the community, nearer to people’s homes. By offering more services in the community and also focusing on preventing people from getting ill, we hope to improve patient outcomes and reduce the demand for the hospital beds.

“This time last year, we had anticipated that work to improve community services would mean we had fewer patients needing overnight hospital treatment because they would get the care they needed in their local community. We therefore included in our Commissioning Intentions that the hospital might need 34 fewer acute beds, allowing them to either be used for other purposes or taken out.

“Last year many more patients were successfully treated out of hospital but demand for services also grew. Therefore no beds were closed.”

Last month, Dr Dalton said there had been a five per cent hike in the number of people attending Wigan A&E and receiving care by being admitted. This led to an extra 16 acute beds being used every day for emergency admissions. It had also contributed to the A&E unit’s struggling to meet its target for the number of patients seen within four hours.

The latest figures show this was met in 85.75 per cent of cases in September, below the 91.5 per cent target agreed with NHS Improvement and the 95 per cent national standard.

However, it was an improvement from the 82.89 per cent performance in August.

Steps to address this include the introduction of front-door streaming, which sees patients some patients treated at a primary care centre at the nearby Christopher Home instead of A&E.