Beds to be cut at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead
BEDS are set to be lost at a leading North East general hospital as a result of a national drive to cut costs across the NHS, it emerged last night.
Health union chiefs claim as many as 100 beds could go across Gateshead Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which operates Gateshead’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital along with smaller community health centres.
But health officials insisted the changes, introduced in response to the new national operating framework for 2010-11, would improve patient care.
Unison officials said they understood the acute stroke ward and part of the surgical ward would be affected along with the endocrinology unit, which deals with hormone disorders.
The rheumatology and haematology wards, could also see a reduction in bed numbers, they say.
It is thought the changes will take place from April, and staff and union representatives claimed they have been kept in the dark about the cuts and fear they will affect patients and hit jobs.
Last night, Gateshead Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust confirmed beds at the hospital were being reduced as a direct result of the new operating framework from the Department of Health, which focuses on offering more services at home and in the community.
But Ian Renwick, chief executive at the QE, said not only were talks with staff ongoing, but he insisted the move would improve patient care and offer more choice. He cited the Trust’s strong track record in improving patient care and the use of different models of delivering care.
"People who have traditionally come into hospital for some services can now be looked after in centres closer to their homes and our QE Metro Riverside Centre facility is such an example," he said.
"This provides a wide range of different outpatient clinics, tests and scans."
Mr Renwick said: "Over the last year our trend towards day case surgery increased from 65% to 77%. This is better for patients as they spend less time in a hospital bed and can recover at home. We have a nationally acclaimed Rapid Recovery Programme in orthopaedics which has resulted in a reduction in length of stay from 11 days to four days so far. Again, patients have fed back that they prefer a shorter stay in hospital with appropriate community support.