Call for public consultation after review says Shipston’s new hospital does not need beds
By Andy Mitchell
Local Democracy Reporter
THE NHS is to be asked to hold a public consultation on its decision to cut inpatient beds at the Ellen Badger Hospital in Shipston.
South Warwickshire University NHS Foundation Trust (SWFT) revealed in May that its long-delayed review concluded that only Stratford and Leamington hospitals needed to have community beds.
The review report, which has not yet been made public, was said to have recommended an increase in the number of beds in south Warwickshire – 41 instead of the 35 – but none would be in Shipston where the Ellen Badger Hospital is currently being rebuilt as part of a multi-million-pound project.
At one stage, the old Ellen Badger Hospital had 16 community beds.
The final decision is due to be taken by the NHS Coventry & Warwickshire Integrated Care Board (ICB) in July but Warwickshire County Council’s adult social care and health overview and scrutiny committee runs the rule over such work. It can make recommendations to the ICB and called on SWFT chief executive Glen Burley to explain the plans this week.
Mr Burley said evidence showed that NHS-supported recovery is best at home where possible, but that the review suggested an average of 19 community beds would still be required, a number he “felt a little uncomfortable” with.
“Apart from anything else, that is an average and often, that is not what actually happens,” he said.
He went on to cite modelling, including figures that showed only 17 people from the Shipston area required community beds in the last financial year compared with 313 from Leamington, Warwick and Kenilworth, arguing the new plan amounted to “an appropriate, safe recommendation”.
Describing himself as a “huge fan” of Ellen Badger Hospital, he stated “I haven’t given up” on relocating GP services to the redeveloped site and insisted that having no in-patient beds “does not mean the hospital will not continue to be busy and supportive of the community”.
The GP surgery in Shipston has been faltering on moving onto the Ellen Badger site because of the increasing costs involved.
Mr Burley added: “The small number of people who need access to community hospital beds is significantly dwarfed by the number of people who will use that service moving forward, and we will enhance the service offer.
“Our plans have to consider the entire South Warwickshire population and the needs of our community, hence the two locations [Stratford and Leamington hospitals] that we think are best suited to do that.”
Shipston Town Council’s John Dinnie queried why a full report had not been published rather than a “recommendation with no supporting documentation”.
And Stratford district councillor Dave Passingham (Green, Shipston South) expressed “considerable concern” on behalf of his residents.
He asked for a full public consultation and for the decision to be referred to government, asking: “Other neighbouring authorities managed to retain in-patient beds at local hospitals such as in Moreton-in-Marsh – why not Shipston?”
Cllr Kate Rolfe (Lib Dem, Stratford South) advocated asking the ICB to conduct a full public consultation and expressed her suspicion around the NHS figures.
“Isn’t it ironic that you stated an ongoing need for 19 beds as a minimum – guess how many beds the Nicol Unit has (now), it just seems odd the number is 19,” she said.
Cllr John Holland (Lab, Warwick West) reflected on the modern, technology-led ways of people recovering at home championed by Mr Burley but was happy to support a consultation.
“I think this is clearly a thought-out and positive step forward,” he said. “Working with local residents, winning hearts and minds by taking in ideas, suggestions and proposals, people will get behind it if they see their own ideas incorporated into a project.”
Committee chair Cllr Jo Barker (Con, Shipston) acknowledged a wide range of views existed and concluded: “I think it is clear we need to communicate with the ICB.”