Contributed by Jane Varker, Chair of West Cornwall HealthWatch


Published 01/12/20

 At the end of November Cornwall Council’s Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee met.  The responsibility of this committee is to investigate plans and proposals made by providers of health and social care services, scrutinize and agree with or if necessary ask them to think again.

 West Cornwall HealthWatch asked them two main questions at their meeting:

  • about earwax removal services
  • about the lack of community hospital beds in West Penwith following the closure of Poltair and Edward Hain Hospitals, which has resulted in many patients having to be admitted to other Community hospitals far from home.

 We have highlighted the lack of provision of earwax removal in many GPs surgeries and its move into the private sector, which is expensive and difficult to access in previous press releases.  We were heartened to hear that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee are concerned about this and will be looking into it.

 Our questions about beds were answered in the context of a paper brought to the committee from Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group, about the closure of Edward Hain Hospital and the loss of twelve inpatient beds. The paper was very thorough in its description of the procedures and consultation which led to the conclusion that Edward Hain should close permanently and the clinics held there be relocated in St Ives.

 The Overview and Scrutiny Committee recognised that out of hospital care in West Cornwall has changed since the loss of the Edward Hain beds, but this has not prevented patients being stuck in hospital further from home. So therefore the committee called for the beds lost at Edward Hain to be re-provided in South West Cornwall as soon as possible, including the option to use West Cornwall or St Michaels Hospital Hayle, and provide an “Edward Hain” wing.

The Committee called on NHS Kernow to commit to the re-provision and retention of stepdown/reablement beds locally until there is proven safe capacity in the acute sector, and patients can be cared for fully and appropriately at home or in residential or nursing homes with safe levels of staffing. Subject to this re-provision the Committee endorsed the NHS Kernow recommendation that Edward Hain be closed and the clinics relocated.

 West Cornwall HealthWatch regrets the closure of Edward Hain Hospital but totally supports re-provision of beds as a condition of this closure.

 However, shortly following these recommendations NHS Kernow came up with information completely out of the blue. To quote: “We have received confirmation that a purpose-built new care home will be open to receive its first residents in Penzance in January 2021. This is the first time a new care home has been built in Cornwall for over a decade. This will provide twenty-eight beds and these have been commissioned as discharge-to-assess beds which by their nature have a focus on reablement. The intended length of stay for individuals will be up to six weeks, free at the point of delivery regardless of ongoing funding arrangements. Some beds will be for people with dementia and complex care needs. This will increase bedded reablement capacity in the West of Cornwall and addresses some of the Overview and Scrutiny Commitee concerns”.

 We have to ask - where is this purpose-built private care home? Why has there been no mention of it before? What will be the staffing levels and therapy input? How can NHS Kernow commission services in a facility which doesn’t yet exist? What happened to the idea of the NHS re-providing the beds?

 West Cornwall HealthWatch is therefore asking for urgent explanation and clarity about what exactly is going on!

 As always, we are keen to hear from members of the public with their comments and concerns.  Please visit our  Facebook page  or contact us