New Hope For Community Beds in West Cornwall ?

By Graham Webster

Vice Chairman West Cornwall Healthwatch

Next month it will be four years since the in-patient unit at Edward Hain Hospital in St Ives was closed. Four years since West Cornwall had a single community hospital bed providing step-up and step-down facilitates for patients in our community. Over that time some 17,500 bed days have been lost to the Cornish health system and over 1,100 patients have missed out on the opportunity of being cared for in their local community hospital. This at a time when patients are having to travel out of county to access a nursing bed or a specialist dementia care bed due to a lack of suitable facilities here in Cornwall. Shocking when you think about it.

I recently attended a meeting at Edward Hain. It was strange visiting the old place again. Strangely quiet this time, the bed bays all still and quiet, no nurses rushing around looking after patients and the new day room built at considerable public expense, costing in excess of £100,000, standing idle. Ironic the new day room should have been officially opened in January 2016 and the in-patient unit closed one month later in February 2016. If it is eventually decided to close the hospital NHS managers and officials will have some very serious questions to answer as to how the scheme for the new day room was allowed to proceed whilst there was a treat to the in-patient unit at the hospital.

The meeting I attended was to consider the learning report on the Winter Pilot held at the hospital during 2019. There was little doubt that the pilot had made a positive difference to the 27 people who had attended it but had now had to move on to alternative provision because the pilot and the funding had come to an end. The Learning Report will now be considered in the on-going discussions around the future use of the hospital. Ironic that in order to enable the Winter Pilot to proceed much of the fire safety work, which had brought about the closure of the in-patient unit, had been funded and carried out by NHS Property Services, the landlords of the hospital, again at considerable expense to the public purse. What was not funded was the additional patient evacuation work demanded by the Cornwall Partnership Foundation NHS Trust, the current tenant of the hospital but as I understand it, the previous offer by the League of Friends of Edward Hain Hospital to support this work remains on the table should it be decided to re-open the in-patient unit.

The recent general election result will bring new hope for community hospital beds here in West Cornwall. Derek Thomas, our newly re-elected MP for St Ives, has previously supported the need for community hospital beds, ideally in a new, purpose-built facility. He has also previously promised to keep Edward Hain Hospital open. 2020 will be crunch time for both of these. Either capital for a new build community hospital in West Cornwall must be forthcoming or the funds found to carry out the patient evacuation work demanded at Edward Hain to enable the in-patient unit to be re-opened. West Cornwall desperately needs one or the other of these so, it is time to deliver, no if’s, no but’s, time to get one of these done.

West Cornwall HealthWatch wish all Cornishman readers a Happy New Year and a healthy 2020.