Fears over elderly care at Conquest in ward shake-up

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ELDERLY patients at the Conquest Hospital could suffer in the latest shake-up of wards, it is feared.

Half of MacDonald ward, which has 26 beds, is set to be turned into a discharge unit for people waiting to go home and the other half into an extension of the hospital’s medical assessment unit.

Earlier this year, Murray ward, which predominantly looked after elderly patients, closed with the loss of 26 beds.

And recently the Observer learned that hospital managers have plans to close the 26-bedded Benson ward, which again mainly cares for patients aged over 65.

Affected staff are currently in a consultation period with managers.

The hospital trust is looking for ways to save money after amassing a £6 million debt over the last year.

A source from within the hospital claimed no alternative provisions for older patients have been put in place.

“In East Sussex there is a high percentage of elderly people and I hate to think what is going to happen in the future,” the hospital worker said.

Margaret Williams, chairman of Hands off the Conquest, was less than pleased.

She said: “People are very concerned and wondering where vulnerable, elderly people are going to go with the closure of wards.

“For instance, in Benson ward I heard that there is never a spare bed available. There are patients in that ward who are 100. It is also felt that Benson ward is a specialist ward for elderly people.

“Even though MacDonald ward will not be losing any beds, they will not be used for their present purpose, which is mainly for elderly patients.

“If these patients are moved elsewhere in the Conquest they are not going to get the specialist care they need.

“We have an ageing population so in the future there will be more elderly people, coupled with the fact we are in a deprived area as well.”

Tom Gurney, spokesman for East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the Conquest and Eastbourne’s DGH, said none of the beds in MacDonald ward were being lost.

He told the Observer: “MacDonald ward has not closed. As of this week, the medical assessment unit (MAU) at the Conquest will be extending its bed capacity, using half of the beds on MacDonald ward.

“This is a realignment of beds to support patients being fast tracked to specialty bed areas and is part of a wider plan to speed up patient assessment and treatment planning.

“The other half of MacDonald ward is being converted into a fully functioning planned discharge area that will better support the planned and managed discharge of patients from all wards.”