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Anger over Kelling ward closure

PUBLISHED: 15:24 13 February 2008 | UPDATED: 08:50 13 July 2010

ANGRY doctors and patients lined up to attack health chiefs for closing a north Norfolk hospital ward.

One hundred people, also including concerned carers and councillors, packed a public meeting last Thursday to air opposition to the axing of Lascelles Ward at Holt's Kelling Hospital.

ANGRY doctors and patients lined up to attack health chiefs for closing a north Norfolk hospital ward.

One hundred people, also including concerned carers and councillors, packed a public meeting last Thursday to air opposition to the axing of Lascelles Ward at Holt's Kelling Hospital.

Campaigners are already in the midst of a high court challenge over the legality of the closure, the lack of consultation and the need to retain as many community hospital beds as possible to help the constant bed blocking problems at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Three Holt GPs told health authority officials there was a need for such beds at Kelling, as there were problems of getting local people on to local wards, and plans for alternative home care were not in place.

Dr Peter Franklin said it was a “great shame we are embroiled in a battle between people who are on the same side, trying to make the world a better place” but that he had no faith in the PCT because “you have not delivered what you promised in the past.” Dr Jayne Cooper bemoaned the lack of democracy and transparency in the decision making.

Lascelles ward, which used to house a mix of long-term, respite and intermediate care patients, was shut last October.

Officials cited the need for investment in the 50-year-old ward, and saying long term patients would be better served by being moved to the more modern en suite facilities at Cromer's Benjamin Court, while Kelling's Pine Heath ward will also be extended from 18 to 24 beds for other types of patients.

There was an impassioned statement from carer David Sadler, whose wife was now at home after 18 years of respite care at Kelling. He said: “She cannot stand and is almost incontinent. I often have to get up in the night and clean up a dirty bed. The rug has been pulled out from beneath us.”

Kelling Appeal president John Shrive said they had spent £90,000 on Lascelles, and asked why they were allowed to spend £40,000 of that just two years ago if it was “not fit for purpose”.

The hospital's modern matron Belinda Williamson said Lascelles was “my baby” but its curtained bays did not lend itself to the privacy and dignity needed by patients

Members of public were unhappy that officials could not provide costs for what needed spending on the ward to bring it up to standard, saying that should have been a key part of the decision-making.

There was anger that campaigners' bids to get the ward surveyed had met with refusal - though officials apologised and said it could go ahead. And it was pointed out that the PCT hoped to open its expanded Pine Heath and Benjamin Court facilities by June this year - but had not applied for planning permission.

PCT deputy chief executive David Stonehouse said it was confident the Lascelles decision was robust, but the trust was “big enough to look at it again.” There were no firm plans for the ward but it was part of a review of services across the county - which promoted a comment that if the condition was so poor, who could it be re-used without investment.

Kelling campaign spokesman Charles Simeons told the PCT officials the court action was still active. “We will be only too pleased to stop it if we feel people are getting proper care, but if not we will ask the judge to review it. It's in your hands.”

After the meeting Mr Stonehouse said the feelings of local people would be taken into account before the situation was discussed again at next month's board meeting, following the end of the consultation. The PCT had been advised previously by the county health scrutiny committee that consultation was not needed because it was a “re-provision rather than loss of services.”

And Mr Simeons said the campaign was calling for an extension of the consultation deadline, currently March 3, to allow time for it to do building and infection surveys.

People wanting to have their say on the Lascelles consultation can view or download the document at http://www.norfolk-pct.nhs.uk and email their feedback to YourViewsMatter@norfolk-pct.nhs.uk.

A printed document, incorporating the questionnaire, can be requested from Jennie Billings Norfolk PCT Communications and Patient and Public Involvement Department.

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