Fears grow over waiting times at Stoke Mandeville after Amersham ward closure

Stoke Mandeville Hospital
Stoke Mandeville Hospital

In response to the closure of the Chartridge ward at Amersham hospital, spinal injury patients from Stoke Mandeville Hospital have expressed concern about the possibility of increased waiting times.

We reported last week that Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust (BHT) had taken the decision to close the 22-bed Chartridge ward due to staffing levels.

In a statement to this paper, the trust said:

“The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has imposed conditions regarding staffing levels in its community inpatient wards via a ‘conditions on registration’ letter sent to the Trust’s Board. The Trust cannot meet these conditions due to a shortage of nurses and therapists.”

The statement continued:

“Buckinghamshire residents requiring rehabilitation will either be supported on our therapy and nurse led unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, or referred to Buckingham Community Hospital or to the Waterside Ward at Amersham Hospital.”

With the closure of overnight beds at Thame and Marlow community hospitals last year (the latter originally being justified in part by the availability of beds at the Chartridge ward) concern has been growing about the knock on effect to Stoke Mandeville.

In comments provided to the Save Wycombe Hospital campaign group, spinal patient Lorna Cherry said:

“My surgeon confirmed there was room for me in his operating list, and he described my case as urgent. It was the lack of beds that delayed my admission. I saw for myself when visiting friends on the unit that there were outliers in spinal beds, and friends that were inpatients also reported this back to me. The closure of beds at Amersham can only lead to more pressure on beds in the specialist unit.”

Sam Griffiths, wife of a spinal patient, said to the group:

‘’Any ward closures within Bucks Healthcare Trust is going to have an adverse effect on an already over subscribed spinal unit. A year ago the trust promised to listen and take on board the concerns of spinal patients regarding outliers in spinal beds.”

In a letter to BHT, Save Wycombe Hospital called into question the need to close a whole ward and asked why reducing the number of beds to meet safe staffing levels wasn’t an option.

This paper has spent the past week trying to establish the extent and nature of the staffing issues at Amersham hospital.

The investigation is ongoing across various organisations but we have received the following information from a BHT spokesperson:

“Across the three inpatient wards at Amersham, we should have the equivalent of 94.73 whole time equivalent nursing staff but we currently only have 71.54. By concentrating our staff across two wards instead of three, we will be able to ensure safe staffing at all times and provide a better experience for our patients and staff.”

Related to this story, we also reported last week that Councillor Mike Appleyard, chairman of the Health and Social Care committee (HASC), had responded rather abruptly to a member of the public who requested to see the risk assessment regarding the decision to close the Chartridge ward.

As part of a statement provided in response to this, Mr Appleyard said:

“I acknowledge my email was a little abrupt, I really had not meant for this to come across in this way. I have since responded to the member of public in question explaining that the HASC Select Committee continues to review, monitor and challenge proposed service changes in the Hospital Trust...”

However, the member of public in question contacted this paper to say that they have never received any further communications from Councillor Appleyard.

We have requested further clarification on this from Councillor Appleyard. Buckinghamshire County Council have acknowledged our request but said no explanation was available at the time of going to print.