UPDATED: Statement on Announced Closure of Spencer Ward in February 2018

Today, I spoke with the Chief Clinical Officer of the Derbyshire CCGs about the announcement to close Spencer Ward.

Below is the full text of the questions I sent to the Chief Officer and to the CEO of Derbyshire Healthcare Trust who employ the staff to deliver the service.

I am appalled that North Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) seem to be reneging on itspromise to keep Spencer Ward open whilst an alternative system of care was fully tried and tested, running alongside Spencer Ward.

This was a promise made at the time the closure was decided, and was a commitment made to the Boards of both North Derbyshire and Hardwick CCGs before they decided to support the ‘Better Care Closer to Home’ proposals.

Even though I and others asked how the dual operations would be managed logistically with the additional staff required, we were assured that it could and would be done.

I feel that by announcing the closure in July, the CCGs created a self-fulfilling prophecy – as the closure had been announced, then staff left and clinicians have ceased to refer patients to what was always a full ward, with waiting lists of patients.

Whilst we are aware that the CCG isbeing forced to make huge cuts in its spending, and has been placed in ‘Special Measures’ by NHS England to force those cuts through, people in High Peak will feel utterly let down and betrayed by the CCG.

For those reasons I have asked Health Ombudsman to look again at how the CCG’s decision was made as I believe it fails to meet the criteria for transparency of decision-making as the Boards were misled, or of clinical excellence and care for patients as a new system is being put in place without being tested in our area, and a valued ward closed without any guarantee of a workable care pathway for some of the most vulnerable patients and their carers.

That aside, I want to ensure myself and the people of High Peak that the best possible measures have been put in place to ensure that patients and their carers can continue to receive the excellent standard of care that was delivered by Spencer Ward.

Now that I have been able to look at your statement, I have the following questions:

  1. No date has been given for the closure of Spencer Ward although I understand staff have been told February 2018.  Has a definite date been set, and if so when is that and are you informing the public as well as staff?
  2. The ‘spokesperson’ states, “We are committed to ensuring local people do not receive any gap in service provision while we support the development of the DRRT”.  What training, practice and teamwork building will be undertaken by the new DRRT?
  3. At what stage will the DRRT be deemed to be capable of taking on a full workload and for what hours of the day will they be operational?
  4. For how long will the DRRT be initially assessed to ensure it is working well before Spencer Ward is closed?
  5. Where will the DRRT be based and what area will it cover? I understand it will include staff from both the Cavendish and Newholme Hospitals, but if it covers Bakewell and Buxton areas from one base, staff will spend most of their time travelling and will rarely get together to liaise about patients.
  6. How many NHS staff will be recruited to the DRRT, and how many current staff from other parts of the health service will be drafted in?
  7. How many staff at each level of qualification will be required for the different roles on the DRRT?
  8. How many of the multi-disciplinary team that will make up the DRRT will be medical professionals and how many will be care staff without medical qualifications?
  9. How many patients in the High Peak (Buxton) area will be eligible to receive support from the DRRT?
  10. If the DRRT also covers the Bakewell area, how many patients in that area will be eligible for support?
  11. Will all staff who lose their jobs due to the closure of Spencer and Riverside Wards be offered suitable local alternative employment at their current pay scale?  These are highly trained and experienced staff who the NHS can ill afford to lose when the number of patients with dementia are increasing rapidly.
  12. What will happen to patients who currently receive respite care on Spencer Ward?  We were promised that they would continue to receive such care on the ward whilst they needed it, as they need the specialist support offered by Spencer Ward staff.
  13. How many dementia patients from High Peak will be forced to travel to Chesterfield for in-patient care?
  14. How will their families and carers be enabled to visit them often enough to maintain the contact that is vital if patients are to return home?
  15. What will be done for dementia patients whose loved ones – who are often elderly and frail themselves – are not able to travel to Chesterfield?
  16. How and when will the success of the DRRT be measured?
  17. If the DRRT is not successful, what will the CCG do to support patients and their carers?

I would appreciate the answers to these questions.  Whilst I appreciate they are detailed in nature, as you are in the process of recruiting for and setting up the DRRT, I am sure these will be routine factual issues that you are addressing.

Thank you in anticipation of your response which I hope will help to reassure me and local people in High Peak that older people with dementia and their carers will continue to receive excellent care.