Campaign to reopen Dorset's community hospital beds

Campaign to reopen Dorset's community hospital beds

Published by George Sharpe at 12:01am 4th April 2020. (Updated at 6:59am 6th April 2020)

Campaigners are urging beds at Dorset community hospitals to be brought back into use as part of the fight against the coronavirus.

In a letter, they said there was “no excuse” to not re-open wards at the likes of Wareham and St Leonard’s hospitals to increase capacity.

Dorset HealthCare, which manages the county’s community hospitals, said it had to make sure beds were provided in “the most appropriate locations”.

patient in hospital bed

The letter, sent on behalf of Defend Dorset NHS, Save Portland Beds, Keep Portland Hospital to the trust and Dorset clinical commissioning group, said bringing closed wards back into use would reduce the need for private facilities.

“In this crisis there is an urgent need for hospital beds and the NHS has had to request to use private sector hospital beds to look after coronavirus patients,” it said. “Yet we have closed over 17,000 hospital beds across the UK in the past 10 years.

“In Dorset, in the last 20 years, approaching 500 acute hospital beds have been closed at Poole and Dorset County hospitals. We have also lost 116 Dorset community hospital beds in the last 10 years.”

The letter said it was expected those at Poole and Dorset County hospitals would be brought back into use but said re-opening community hospital beds would further increase their capacity.

Campaigners said nurses had told them there was “no excuse” for not doing so:

“Reinstating closed community beds and wards is an effective way of alleviating much of that pressure and freeing up vital acute hospital beds in Dorset,” the letter added.

“These reinstated community beds and wards can help ensure that none of Dorset’s elderly and vulnerable patients are discharged sooner than they should have been.”

A spokesman for Dorset HealthCare said the trust was “considering how it can best use its resources” during a “challenging and exceptional” period.

“However, we must ensure these beds are in the most appropriate locations to be safely staffed with the right equipment and facilities to hand,” they added.

“We are working through a range of options so that we are fully prepared as the current situation unfolds.”

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter