COLUMN: No, cutting the number of hospital beds isn’t the answer, says Westwell of Ely

Rosemary Westwell

Rosemary Westwell - Credit: Archant

It has recently been reported that the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group’s Governing Body has decided that it would consult us about its idea to cut the number of inpatient beds in hospital for people with learning disabilities.

It believes that it would be better to invest the money that would be saved into community services.

The Dr Gary Howsam, GP chair and chief clinical officer of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG, admits that people with learning disabilities have the same rights as anyone else. Yet how can this be if they are to be given less access to hospital care?

Of course, to make this statement true, people without disabilities could have the number of beds they might need in hospitals reduced as well. Fortunately, there is little sign of this happening, but who knows the future?

The community services are already stretched to the limit, so why is it assumed that things will improve if even more needy people are added to the list? Throwing money at something does not necessarily mean that it will succeed. No matter how much money there is trained staff and support teams have to be found and that takes time.

With data protection preventing people knowing the doctors or health officials who are supposed to be helping an individual, there is little we ordinary people can do.

This is one example of many in which important controlling bodies of people make important political decisions about our welfare, without seeming to consider the real impact.

Most Read

It seems that all that matters is balancing the books, regardless of what needs people have.

If this body was genuine about supporting community health services, large villages such as Witchford would have a doctor’s surgery well established by now.

We already hear tales of people feeling stranded in the community. While we have a relatively efficient 111 call service, more often than not people are told they should contact their GP, another person who is over stretched.

It is almost as if the group are telling this vulnerable group of people to go out into the community, for the community to take on the responsibility of their care, so that the group can wash its hands of the whole situation.

Making a decision to cut the number of beds in hospital for any group within our community does not make sense while more and more people need help. Often people are taking up bed space in hospitals because no support services can be found to help them if they are sent out into the community. Doesn’t this commissioning group know this already? The whole idea should be shelved. The consultation ends on Friday September 28.