Pilgrim Hospital bosses have admitted they do not have the staff to man ward 8B safely – listing lack of manpower as one of the reasons they have ‘redeployed’ the Rochford Unit.
A United Lincolnshire’s Hospital Trust spokesman said the decision to close ward 8B took place more than 14 months ago, citing significant investment in medical staff and a new way of working on the Pilgrim site - which meant it wasn’t needed.
They said the hospital had invested in additional doctors, allowing them to spend more time on the wards and as a result ‘decreasing the length of stay for patients’. They said this lead to less need for beds and therefore the closure of them.
Director of operations at the trust Michelle Rhodes said: “Since that time length of stay for our patients has decreased and through continual working with our commissioners the ward has remained closed.”
However, the recent surge in hospital use and the strain it has put on the Pilgrim has lead to additional beds being opened at ‘relatively short notice’.
Mrs Rhodes said: “As our number one priority is the safety of our patients we have only opened beds in those areas that could be staffed safely.
“The intention is that as more capacity in the community becomes available, and demand slows down allowing us to get back to normal working, these additional beds will be closed.”
The trust spokesman said that although Pilgrim could technically open ward 8B to meet the demand - they ‘couldn’t necessarily safely staff it’, adding: “We don’t have staff to man them effectively.”
They said: “We have got to prioritise safety first, over responsiveness and meeting targets.”
They said this was why the trust had ‘redeployed’ the Rochford Unit, which is managed by Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, meaning 13 elderly mental health patients have been moved away to Lincoln and Grantham.
Mrs Rhodes said: “We are also working closely with our healthcare partners in the community to ensure that patients who are medically fit to go home are discharged in a timely fashion, freeing up more beds for patients who need them.”