Plans to close two Fylde coast hospitals have sparked fears of increased pressure on staff at the Vic as new figures show A&E waiting times continue to rise.
Rehabilitation units in Bispham and Rossall will shut at the end of March under plans to bring intermediate care ‘in-house’.
The service, offering short-term care for patients following a stay at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, has been provided by social enterprise Spiral Health for the last four years.
But with ‘bed-blocking’ blamed for long delays before some patients are seen at A&E, there are fears the move could make matters worse.
However, a hospital source said: “No beds will be lost. The only difference is who delivers the service – most patients won’t notice.”
In November, there were 528 delayed transfers in Blackpool as medically fit patients could not be discharged because services were not in place to care for them.
Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said much of that is down to shortages in social care – and these changes will not affect the situation.
Fylde councillor Mark Bamforth said: “They talk about not having enough beds – it doesn’t make sense. These units take the pressure off them.”
The Trust plans to provide the services at the Vic and the council-run assessment and rehabilitation centre on Clifton Avenue. It follows a consultation in 2012 over plans to move patients from Rossall and the now-closed Wesham Hospital to Clifton.
The Trust has now said Bispham Hospital, which opened in 2002, is ‘no longer required’ and will be sold. Rossall Hospital was quietly sold last year.
It follows a review by Lord Carter, appointed by the Government to help find ways to save the NHS money, which calls for better management of Trusts’ estates.
Fleetwood health campaigner Bill Barrow said ithas led to a ‘strange’ situation in the port, with 20 new rehab beds – promised as part of the relocation from Bispham – not expected until the summer.
He added: “We are sat on empty buildings. Fleetwood Hospital is only partially used and the Health and Wellbeing Centre is only half occupied at the moment.”
Meanwhile, with so-called ‘bed-blocking’ hitting near record levels nationally, rising demand meant A&E waiting times targets were missed on the Fylde coast in November.
New figures show just 90 per cent of the 15,751 patients were admitted, transferred or discharged with four hours – less than the 95 per cent target. At the Vic, the figure fell to 77.1 per cent as year-on-year attendances were up 2.6 per cent.