Ludlow Hospital wards merger going ahead despite protests
[gallery] The merger of two wards at Ludlow Hospital was today going ahead – despite hundreds of people calling for the move to be halted at a public meeting.
Beds were being moved from the Stretton ward at the hospital on Gravel Hill downstairs to the Dinham ward, as part of controversial plans to address safety and staffing problems.
It comes despite almost total opposition to the plans, which were first announced a week ago, at a heated meeting held at the town's Wesleyan Methodist Church in Broad Street last night.
A fresh petition is now set to be launched calling for Ludlow to be awarded an urgent care centre as part of the shake-up of healthcare across the county. Supporters believe the move would secure key services at the hospital for years to come.
Many supporters of the hospital were forced to stand at last night's meeting, due to the large turnout.
Jan Ditheridge, chief executive of Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust, insisted the move was an "interim measure" while staffing was sorted out. But she apologised to those at the meeting for the trust's poor communication over the issue.
She also insisted the action was not a closure, but that beds were being moved on to one level for the sake of the safety of patients and nurses due to ongoing problems with nurse recruitment.
About 2,500 people have signed a petition opposing the plans, while a show of hands at the end of last night's meeting, which was called by Ludlow Town Council, returned a near-unanimous vote against the idea.
Dr Catherine Beanland, a GP at the town's Portcullis Surgery who sat on the panel at the meeting, said neither patients, town GPs nor many of the nurses she talked to knew about the plan until a week ago.
She added they had since learned that bed numbers had been officially reduced from 40 to 24 at the hospital over the last year with no consultation.
Peter Corfield, chairman of the League of Friends of Ludlow Hospital, said: "I think we are all tired of being treated like country bumpkins."
He said most of the county's cottage hospitals had been closed to fund beds at Telford, and Ludlow was in the firing line any time there was a shortage in funding ever since.
"From 2005 we have suffered from mushroom management," he said. "We're kept in the dark until something happens."
Ms Ditheridge said: "We have some really good nurses, just not enough and working between two floors is really unhelpful in how they can support each other – that's the reason we're doing it and the only reason we're doing it."
Steve Gregory, the health trust's director of nursing and a member of the panel at the meeting, added that £200,000 had been spent on health care in the community this year and the need for beds had fallen as people were staying on average three days less as a result.
Fellow panel member Dr Colin Stanford, clinical director of Shropshire Clinical Commisioning Group, added that the number of beds may be fewer, but patients being treated had remained the same, as today not all treatment had to happen in a hospital.
Ms Ditheridge said the move did not threaten Ludlow Hospital's future and still had a "very strong case" for and new urgent care centre over other areas in Shropshire.
She said: "It won't be all about beds it will be about different types of services – different types of beds and different types of practises."
Dr Beanland said she had been filled with renewed hope by the surge of support from the community and added she would now raise another petition calling for Ludlow to get an urgent care centre and hoped all who signed the previous petition would sign it, and more.
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