The £7.7m bill for saving 130 beds at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire
AN EXTRA 130 beds are set to be kept open at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire for the next five years – at a cost of at least £7.7m.
The true cost of the bed closure u-turn is revealed in documents to be discussed by hospital officials at a meeting on Friday.
Up to four wards earmarked for closure are set to be kept open until 2017;
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The cost of running those wards for five years will hit £6.5 million;
An extra £1.25 million will be needed to bring the four wards up to modern-day standards;
A CT scanner may have to be leased because the four wards are so detached from the new superhospital site.
Hospital officials today warned patients needing life-or-death treatment will suffer if the cash to fund the reprieved beds is not approved.
It is estimated £3 million can be found from existing budgets used to lay on extra services.
The 130 beds were due to be closed as part of a programme of 300 bed closures.
But the beds are being retained because so many A&E patients are waiting too long for beds and not enough people are being treated in the community.
The reprieved beds are in the West Building which was due to be turned into offices.
University Hospital chief operating officer Vanessa Gardener said: "The risk of not implementing these recommendations will have a clear operational impact in delivering efficient patient flow to support the delivery of key targets. This, in turn, may impact on the experience patients receive when requiring emergency medical services – all of which will ultimately impact on the trust's reputation."
The number of people using the University Hospital's accident unit has increased in the past few months, with an average of more than 300 visitors every day.
It means the hospital is failing to hit the Government target of treating or admitting 95 per cent of A&E patients within four hours. On average three people a day are waiting 11 hours to be admitted.
Mrs Gardener added: "Our plans to close beds predicted a reduction in activity. Instead there has been an increase in demand which placed pressure on us in the main due to the bed capacity being insufficient to cope with the volumes of patients.
"It is clear the trust has some way to go to deliver the required levels of efficiency but the increase in demand is due to the fact local health economy schemes have yet to fully materialise."
The situation will be further reviewed in 18 months.
The change of plan has been welcomed by health campaigners.
Ian Syme, co-ordinator of North Staffordshire Healthwatch, said: "These contingencies are necessary to maintain a safe standard of care. Inefficiencies and delays in the community schemes are behind the problems and as there are no signs of slicker working coming soon we can see these beds staying for the full five years."