Following a fire safety risk assessment in June 2017, the number of available beds at the hospital was reduced from a total of 50 to 16 on both Carlton and Manby wards - a decision that was taken by Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust (LCHS) in relation to patient safety, in line with recommendations from the fire service, to ensure the wards could be safely evacuated in the event of a fire.
Last October, a joint statement from LCHS and NHS Property Services Ltd said: “LCHS would like to reassure local people its commitment to returning to original bed numbers remains.”
However, an anonymous letter sent to Councillor Steve Palmer last week revealed that Lincolnshire East CCG is now consulting on two options for the future of the wards - but neither of these options involve the number of beds being increased to anywhere nears its previous quantity.
The two options listed in the consultation are as follows:
OPTION ONE: 16 beds on Carlton Ward; 6 chairs for day case therapy; Manby Ward would not re-open to beds but ‘there may be opportunities for the space to be used differently’ (e.g. co-locating services such as those delivered by community staff).
OPTION TWO: 20 beds on Carlton Ward (including four ‘flexible’ beds for over-night assessment or more complex care packages); 6 chairs on Manby Ward for day case assessment underpinned by a new Frailty Assessment, Stabilisation and Treatment (FAST) pathway; a new fully-equipped gym to support assessment of mobility.
Hospital campaigners have condemned the move (see below), but NHS chiefs have said that it is part of a move towards a ‘home first’ approach to care - and claimed that this is unrelated to the reduction in hospital beds last summer.
A Lincolnshire East CCG spokesman said: “Significant building work, which will be completed this year, has been undertaken to address the (fire safety) risks.
“While these events have given opportunity to look at different approaches to delivering care, this patient safety issue predates and is unrelated to the decision to explore alternative options for providing inpatient services.
“The two options being considered by Lincolnshire East CCG focus on developing a ‘home first’ approach to care, where patients are treated in their local community or at home wherever possible.
“This is based on evidence which shows that being in hospital for a longer period than necessary can be detrimental to a person’s health.
“The newly designed ward configuration proposed will include dedicated assessment/stabilisation beds enabling patients to receive treatment within the ward while creating the opportunity to provide care within the home environment earlier.
“The new model will also provide day care assessment, treatment and care planning underpinned by revised care pathways.
“A fully equipped gym - not previously in place - will support assessment of mobility and the ability to establish personalised therapy plans.
“Co-location of other clinical staff will give rise to access to a range of specialisms not previously accessible within the hospital environment.”
He continued: “As a CCG we would like to assure residents that County Hospital, Louth, has a crucial role to play now and in the future, and this has been identified in the Lincolnshire STP.
“It is our vision to achieve really good health care for the people of Louth with support from an excellent and accessible service with the money we have available. “These options will help to secure the future of the hospital and will provide the building blocks for future developments.
“It is our desire to invest in the hospital for the future which supports our commitment to the residents of Louth and the surrounding area.”
Louth and Horncastle’s MP, Victoria Atkins, told the Louth Leader today (Thursday): “This Conservative Government has pledged as part of its long-term funding plan an extra £20.5bn for the NHS.
“As this money becomes available, it will be an opportunity for Lincolnshire East CCG and others to invest in local healthcare, including the option of a new hospital in Louth.”
Ms Atkins previously said she has an ‘ongoing campaign’ to highlight the importance of the hospital - but said any final decisions on its future would be determined by the STP Group rather than ministers.
• CAMPAIGNERS: ‘OUR HOSPITAL’S FUTURE HAS BEEN REVEALED’
The founder of the Fighting 4 Louth Hospital campaign group and former town councillor, Julie Speed, spoke out following the release of the consultation letter.
She said: “And so the veil has fallen. The future of Louth Hospital has been revealed to us.
“The proposal that only Carlton ward remain open with a 16-20 bed capacity after Manby ward was closed due to a fire risk assessment, is likely to be permanent.
“Despite continued assurances to the public on television and in the local newspapers that both wards would return to ‘full occupancy following the remedial works’, this is not going to happen. Our much loved hospital is to lose yet another, much needed ward.
“This is just one more step in the downgrading of our hospital. We have lost so many wards and services already.
“Ms. Victoria Atkins (Member of Parliament for Louth and Horncastle) declared: ‘I was elected on a promise to fight for better healthcare in the constituency.
‘Since 2015, I have lobbied NHS leaders tirelessly, of the particular health needs of our local area.’
“And the result of all this hard work? Louth County Hospital has seen the number of beds decline from a total of 80-90 beds in 2015 to just 16 in 2018.
“And there is still no A&E department in the our constituency, which covers some five hundred square miles.
“We are acutely aware that our situation in Louth is not unique.
“It is happening on a nationwide scale to our healthcare services - underfunding, cuts to services and treatments, downgrading of local hospitals, extensive centralisation and increased privatisation. All this is being done purposefully, politically.
“It is all part of a national directive which includes the hugely destructive Sustainability and Transformation Plan.
“Fighting 4 Louth Hospital intends to hold a public screening of Dr. Bob Gill’s film, ‘Sell Off’ on Thursday September 27, which graphically portrays what is happening to our NHS. It is essential viewing for all those who value our NHS and are starting to disbelieve the official narrative.”
Visit the Fighting 4 Louth Hospital Facebook page for more details about the screening.
To find out more about the two options in the consultation, and to have your say on the plans, visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/Louthwards