Since the introduction of the Sustainability and Transformation Plan in 2016 and subsequent Community Re-Design, via Better Care Together, we have fought relentlessly to Save our cottage hospital, Feilding Palmer Cottage Hospital – Lutterworth which has been under threat of closure.
This week we were staggered to learn that due to the Covid – 19 pandemic all 10 beds had been closed (including one palliative care bed). This happened without any prior announcement, but the reasons given for the closure of the beds were revealed in a Stakeholders Briefing that was circulated 2/3 days after the event. The main reasons given were:
- The hospital is a small Victorian building and does not enable safe social distancing on the ward.
- There is less than 2 metres between 8 out of the 10 beds.
- The main corridor is less than 2 metres wide.
- There are no isolation facilities, therefore if any one patient was infected with the virus, all would be forced to isolate for 14 days.
- Only one member of staff can use the main office at one time.
- A multi function dining room/gym/day room is the only space that staff can receive clinical handover between shifts and undertake meetings.
Now, whilst recognising that patient and staff safety has to be paramount, we feel that the above reasons are certainly questionable and we have asked Leicestershire Partnership Trust (LPT) to answer the following:
- Can you give us written re-assurance that the hospital beds will be reopened – including 1 palliative care bed?
- When did you carry out the risk assessment re Covid-19 at the hospital?
- Could you provide us with a copy of said risk assessment?
- What testing procedures were in place at the time you took the decision to close the hospital, in line with national guidance?
LPT also stated that this was only a temporary closure, and indeed via the local press they have made the following statement: “Please be assured that this is a temporary arrangement to keep our patients and staff safe during this Covid-19 pandemic. We would not close any beds on a permanent basis without going through a formal consultation process.” This would have to be done otherwise they are in breach of policy guidelines, but we fear this pandemic has played straight into their hands.
What is really important here is to consider the following:
Other Victorian Hospitals and care homes are currently being used throughout the country to help deal with this pandemic and the social distancing would be no different to that in Feilding Palmer and yet they remain open. Surely the social distancing could have been addressed by admitting fewer patients and, in accordance with National Guidance, with correct testing procedures in place, the supply of adequate PPE and the stopping of all visitors to the hospital would have safeguarded the patients and staff as much as humanly possible.
The hospital has a reasonable sized reception area where staff briefings could have taken place, so to say that there was no safe area for this to happen is purely nonsensical. Given how much positive national coverage the mainstream press has given to the NHS, including the vital role of Community Hospitals, we find this action very alarming. Although most of the staff have been redeployed, we have been disturbed to learn that staff have been pressurised not to speak out about the situation, which seems to be the national trend. We are also confused as to why, 8 weeks into lockdown, has this happened? It begs the question ‘ Has the hospital been operating safely prior to this decision?’
Ultimately, has this pandemic been exploited in order to obtain the results our local Commissioners have been seeking for many years?