The NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (Health East) announced in June a proposed fundamental change in the care of patients (mainly but not exclusively elderly) who would previously have been admitted either to an acute hospital or to Southwold Community Hospital. A public consultation 'The Shape of the System' was concluded in September. The outcome is that in future the focus will be on care in the patient's own home wherever possible, obviating the need for a hospital stay, with the deployment of new "Out of Hospital Teams" (OHT's) backed up with local "Beds with Care" based in our "Hub" surgery in Reydon.

Voluntary organisations will also be tied into the NHS system in an attempt to make the whole thing work well together holistically.

Acute health issues will be dealt with at James Paget as they are now but with Beccles handling intermediate care needs.

We have reports that in the first two parts of Health East's area where the new system has been introduced, it has been generally welcomed by patients and has had the overall effect of reducing admissions to the James Paget.

Specifically for our area in Southwold and Reydon the proposal was:

  • Setting up an Out of Hospital team based at the Sole Bay Health Centre hub
  • Closing Southwold Hospital, possibly as early as April 2016.
  • NHS funded "beds with care" to replace the closed Southwold hospital beds
  • Converting Beccles Hospital into "intermediate care beds"

The OHT team to support the in-home care are critical to the success of this strategy; from the documents published they are to be made up of:

  • A team leader
  • Community nurses
  • Social workers
  • Physiotherapists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Assistant
  • Health care assistants
  • Administrative support

While this strategy is appealing to us, the execution got off to an appalling start here. It was planned to close Southwold Hospital (SH) once the beds with care had been established and so the sudden announcement of its premature "temporary closure" did not serve the proposal well.

The results and decisions of the consultation process were finally released by Health East last November, stating:

"Recommendation five: Southwold Hospital

We have heard from the Southwold community that the current out of hospital model will not work in the same way in more rural areas. We will work with the local community and clinicians to design a model with out of hospital services and appropriate beds with care in the local area.

Southwold Hospital now only contains GP community hospital beds with all other services having relocated to the new Sole Bay Health Centre. GP community hospital beds at Southwold Hospital are temporarily suspended due to staffing issues. During this time the local community has been able to support patients well and we will work quickly with the local community to put the new out of hospital services in place to support this further.

We would anticipate that once they are in place there will not be a need for the GP community hospital beds at Southwold Hospital and we will then be able to permanently close the hospital."

The Society recognises that pressure on budgets, growing population, aging population (especially us @ double the national average for over 65's) has led to this decision, albeit it is with sadness we saw our local hospital close.

From now on we see the Society's role is to concentrate on how the plan is progressing in particular with regard to:

  • The OHT; given our age profile we feel that the structure of this will need to be very different from the Lowestoft existing hub.
  • Beds with Care: we were not too sure how the current system was operating without SH. The decision above was vague on this topic, though we understand planning for a new care home next to the surgery has started. Assuming a partner is found willing to take on this development, realistically we are looking at a 2018 completion date. Therefore we needed to fully understand how this gap will be filled.

 

Based on this we invited Andy Evans (CEO of Health East) to our December meeting.

Here he said it was unlikely Southwold Hospital would re-open but that beds in the hospital had hardly been used by local people for some time. Patients who would have been admitted there were now being looked after by a combination of voluntary services provided by Cathy Ryan and by Sole Bay Health Centre.

Two NHS beds had been block-booked and paid for (for 6 months) at Oaklands. It was hoped to have the OHT team in place by the end of January. It would be flexible to allow for any fluctuations in demand.

Land for a new care home at Reydon had been transferred to NHS Property who would now set about marketing it to developers. A proposal to use the hospital building for a hospice had been rejected.

We will continue to update on the process after end January especially to gauge response once the key OHT is in place.