Demand up yet hospital ward remains closed

Pilgrim Hospital
Pilgrim Hospital
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Ward 8B is supposed to cater for cardiology and diabetes patients on level 8 of the tower block of the hospital.

The Spalding Guardian understands, however, that it closed towards the end of 2013, with no sign of it re-opening despite the hospital under severe strain from extra patients over the winter period.

It was suggested that there may be a problem that required costly repair work that was keeping the ward from being used but this was denied by United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, which runs the site.

A spokesman instead said staff had been moved to other departments on wards and that it was all ‘part of the plans’.

They were unable to provide a specific reason for the closure of ward 8B, or a date that it may be re-opened but confirmed it had now been shut for 14 months.

A source at the Pilgrim Hospital told us: “That’s a 28-bed ward at the hospital that is completely and utterly empty. It’s an awful lot of beds.

“Even if they just temporarily re-opened it then that would make a difference.”

The source added: “There may be patients in ICU (intensive care unit) who are fit to go to a ward but there’s no bed for them to go to.”

They added that it was ‘unacceptable’ for the trust not to provide a full explanation for not using the ward, adding: “Somebody knows why it is not open. The public have the right to know what the plan is.

“If they say they don’t know why it is closed then that worries me even more.”

The source raised concerns that political parties will spend the next five months bickering about the NHS in the lead-up to the elections, thus putting any real action to fix issues such as those at the Pilgrim on hold until later in the year.

The source also hit out at the explanation for the recent strain on hospital services in the area.

They told The Spalding Guardian: “They call it winter pressures but it’s poppycock – it’s all year round pressures now.”

The chairman of the health scrutiny committee at Lincolnshire County Council, Christine Talbot, was not aware of the closure of the ward when approached by our reporter.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust was placed in special measures by health minister Jeremy Hunt in 2013. It aimed to be out of special measures last year but, while inspectors noted improvements had been made, it still remains under the grading.

Bosses have also warned that they expect the trust to have a £26 million deficit this year and without reform that would rise to £105 million by 2018. It says ‘doing nothing’ is not an option.

However its five-year plan mentions ‘centralisation of care’, concentrating on specialised urgent care on ‘fewer sites’.

It says both Boston and Lincoln’s maternity units are ‘under the nationally recommended numbers’ for their size.

As yet discussions on the detail for how the deficit is to be addressed have gone on behind the scenes, with further detail promised this year.

The Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian has joined forces with sister titles including The Boston Standard, Sleaford Standard, Spilsby Standard and Horncastle News to try to protect the services at the Pilgrim, with hundreds of readers already filling in coupons of support.