Specialist ward for the elderly to close

1:35pm Thursday 7th April 2005

By Hugh Christopher

A specialist ward which looks after seriously ill elderly residents is to close, Barnet Primary Care Trust (PCT) announced last week.

The Dickens Ward at Finchley Memorial Hospital does not meet NHS standards, as it lacks single rooms and en suite facilities for patients.

It is also dilapidated and, rather than launching a costly refurbishment, the PCT has opted to close the ward and move its 20 patients to different locations with the aid of the private sector.

Councillor Brian Coleman, a Friend of Finchley Memorial Hospital for the past 25 years, labelled the decision disgraceful.

“It’s a terrible decision,” he said. “Right now there is a very professional staff there doing an excellent job, and it has been decided to take all that apart.

“The ward may be in a bad state — although I can’t say I’ve ever thought it was that bad — but that’s the reason why we should refurbish it, not close it, for heaven’s sake.” The PCT decided to pay to move patients to private hospitals or care homes after the results of its consultation showed just over half of those quizzed thought it was the best option.

Refurbishment would have resulted in multiple moves for patients as the work was carried out, and a decrease in the number of beds due to the additional space required.

“The fabric of the building and the hygiene meant there was an MRSA risk,” said Alison Edgington, the PCT’s director of nursing.

“The most important thing is the residents, that these people have a home.” Peter Packer, chairman of the PCT Patient and Public Involvement Forum, said it was strange timing for the announcement, considering the £40 million Edgware Community Hospital was only opened a week beforehand.

“It seems funny to me that in the same week as there is euphoria over them opening a new community hospital in Edgware, the PCT then close a hospital ward. Some of the patients there have already been moved once, from Colindale Hospital to the Dickens Ward. Now they are going to have to move again.” The patients aren’t expected to move for at least 12 months as alternative accommodation, and the money required, is sought.

The PCT plans to include a continuing care ward in a new building for the Finchley Memorial Hospital, which is still in the very early stages of planning.

“They haven’t even purchased the land for the new site yet, so how can they make plans about continuing care in a new hospital? It’s years away,” said Mr Coleman.

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