Whistleblower nurse reveals how Wirral hospital cuts 'will hit patient care'

From the Liverpool Daily Post

CUTS at a Merseyside hospital will hamper patient care, a whistleblowing nurse told the Daily Post. The medic said some ward closures pushed through earlier this year have already had to be reversed because they were poorly thought through. And it is feared more closures planned for the New Year could cause distress to patients.

Nurses union The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has also received emails from staff alarmed at changes at Wirral University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which includes both Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge Hospitals.

A new shift system has left nurses feeling “unable to provide adequate and safe care to patients” at Arrowe Park, the RCN said. The hospital trust is trying to save nearly £42m from its budget within three years.

It said any ward closures were constantly reviewed so medics can respond to the shifting healthcare needs of the community. Bosses also said they have a “winter contingency plan” to deal with the seasonal peak in demand for its services.

According to one whistleblower, two of the wards that were mothballed at Arrowe Park earlier in the year have had to have beds on them reopened, due to a lack of available beds elsewhere in the hospital.

Trust managers are also pushing ahead with plans to axe ward M2 at Clatterbridge Hospital, which is separate from the Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology, and cut ward M1 by 10 beds.

But nurses disputed hospital claims that the wards are under-used. They claim patients visiting the hospital for surgery who should not need an overnight stay frequently have to be kept in M2 to recuperate. Explaining what that could mean for patients, one nurse – whose identity the Daily Post has agreed to protect – said:

“There are no contingency plans once they close the ward. The only option for patients needing an overnight stay following a day case procedure will be a transfer by ambulance post operatively to Arrowe Park – presuming they have a bed available. The patient will be transferred from trolley to trolley – day ward to theatre, theatre to day ward, day ward to ambulance, ambulance to ward.”

The entire future of Clatterbridge Hospital is also set to be discussed in a consultation next year. It is understood three options will be floated, one of which will see the hospital only take day cases, a second would see it only treat outpatients and the final option is to keep it as it is.

But the nurse added: “To not perform any day case procedures at the Clatterbridge site would mean longer waiting lists.”

The RCN’s regional officer, Colm Byrne, added: “The RCN and other nursing unions regularly receive contact from nurses complaining about low staffing levels on the wards and about being unable to provide adequate and safe care to patients at Arrowe Park Hospital.”

He added that one nurse told him she now felt “ashamed” to be a nurse, and another said she was “too angry for words to fully convey her true feelings and fears”.

But Wirral’s director of nursing and midwifery, Tina Long, said: “Prior to any decision being made in respect of ward reconfiguration, a detailed evaluation of patient requirements is carried out.

“Any decisions taken in respect of ward reconfiguration are based on the trust’s ability to continue to provide safe, high quality patient care.”

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