Posted: February 21 2017
The county’s community NHS trust has announced that it proposes to introduce innovative new services, caring for more people in their own homes and reducing the number of its community hospital beds in west Hertfordshire.
The NHS is facing significant financial challenges as it tackles unprecedented increases in demand for its services and this is impacting on all NHS organisations in this area, including Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust (HCT) and Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG) – this is the organisation that plans and pays for most NHS services.
HCT has a new contract with HVCCG, which has resulted in a decrease in its budget. A large element of the budget reduction was funding support for HCT community beds which the CCG can no longer provide. In addition, HCT is required to find annual efficiency savings. The Trust also has to reduce an overspend that has been caused by the increased needs of patients in our beds.
The change in HCT’s budget means that it will need to close Sopwell and Langton wards at St Albans City Hospital, where there are 39 beds. This will save £2.8 million that HCT needs to find in total. As a result, the Trust will be able to open ten additional beds in Langley House on St Albans Road in Watford. About 40% of patients in our St Albans wards actually live in Watford, while only 31% have a St Albans postcode.
David Law, Chief Executive of HCT, said: “The reduction in our contract means that we are currently using money from budgets for other services to keep Sopwell and Langton wards open, and this cannot continue for much longer.”
HCT is working with West Herts Hospitals Trust (WHHT) to increase its capacity to support people in their own homes in response to the need to reduce community hospital bed numbers.
The ‘discharge to assess’ scheme, which has been very successful in other areas of the country, will provide support for up to 50 west Herts residents in their own homes after they have been in hospital. The funding for this service will come mainly from WHHT, which continues to accommodate patients who are well enough to leave hospital but do not have the right support in place to do so. The arrangement between the hospital trust and the community trust will help to avoid delays to patients who are waiting to leave hospital.
WHHT Chief Executive Katie Fisher said: “We really welcome the increased focus on reducing the delays our patients face in getting out of hospital.
“Keeping the flow of patients moving through and out-of-hospital helps those who are waiting to get in. In most cases, a prolonged wait in our emergency department is due to our inpatient beds being occupied by patients who no longer need them. So, by helping those patients out of hospital, we are making it easier for those who need hospital care to come in. It’s a win win and shows the benefits of partnership working which is more important now than ever.”
WHHT will also transfer control of a ward in Hemel Hempstead to HCT which will be used to support patients get home as soon as they are ready. HCT is also recruiting more healthcare assistants to bolster its community nursing and therapy teams. There is a national shortage of qualified nurses and therapists, and healthcare assistants can provide treatments such as the administration of insulin injections in patients’ homes to free up our nurses’ time.
David Law said “This is a difficult time for the NHS, the people who need our services and our staff. We know our funding is getting tighter compared to the need for services we are seeing. We have worked very closely with WHHT and with social care to find a way through.
“As our proposed plans are implemented and develop, we will have at least the same capacity to manage people as we had with the beds open at St Albans. I appreciate this will be of concern to many local residents and we will be happy to talk with local groups to explain what we are doing.”
Cameron Ward, Interim Accountable Officer at Herts Valleys CCG said: “These proposals are very much in line with our Your Care, Your Future plans to shift care away from hospitals where we can and to look after more people at home or close to home. Faced with big budget pressures and increasing demands on services, NHS and social care organisations across west Hertfordshire are introducing changes that will make health care affordable for years to come and benefit patients who want to be cared for in a home setting.
“The CCG faces some very immediate challenges to bring our spending within financial targets and as a result we are reviewing all our expenditure. While we will continue to pay all our provider Trusts in line with national guidance, we can no longer afford the additional financial support that we had previously provided and this has been reflected in our new contract. We will work with HCT to deliver any changes and ensure that we continue to meet the needs of patients.”
David Law added: “I want to assure everyone that we will make the savings in a way that is effective and safe for all our residents. This will also support the aim of the whole of the local NHS to provide more care in the community and in patients’ own homes.”
In the coming weeks we will be publicising a number of ways in which local people can hear in more detail about our proposals and have their say.
Residents interested in taking part will be able to see what engagement opportunities are taking place in their area by logging on to the HCT website from Monday 27 February at www.hct.nhs.uk/yoursay. Alternatively, people who would like to receive an update by email should send their name and email address to firstname.lastname@example.org
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