Future of in-patient beds at community hospital 'at risk'
A cottage hospital which closed its in-patient beds temporarily last year is "quite clearly" lurching through a closure process, an MP has said.
The ten beds at Poltair Hospital were shut in October 2012 after the private firm which runs it blamed a recruitment crisis for staffing shortages.
However, it has now been confirmed that the unit near Penzance run by Peninsula Community Health (PCH) will be subject to a consultation and will therefore not open until 2014 – if at all.
St Ives MP Andrew George, who has spoken out against private sector involvement in the NHS, said no-one was surprised by the announcement.
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"This is a process of resigning the community to a state of submission," he said.
"Poltair ostensibly closed on a temporary basis, but then that was subject to a long review earlier this year.
"Now there's going to be a consultation, but that won't start until September.
"They (PCH) are carefully trying not to say it's closing Poltair Hospital, but that's where it's going and everybody knows it."
Mr George said he had long believed that PCH wants to cut the number of beds in its sprawling estate of 14 community hospitals across the county.
Ageing – and some might argue unfit for purpose – Poltair Hospital, which closed four times in the first year after PCH took the helm, was always in the line of fire, said the MP.
"When PCH was set up, it was quite clear they had an idea to cut the number of beds," Mr Goerge said. "Quite clearly Poltair was not going to survive that process.
"What they're doing is going through the closure programme that they denied they were going to do."
A spokesman for PCH said Poltair remained open for a range of out-patient services and clinics.
"The consultation will address the provision of inpatient beds following the temporarily closure of ten beds last October owing to a shortage of qualified staff, which remains an issue locally and nationally," he said.
NHS Kernow, the GP-led clinical commissioning group which purchases PCH's services, will lead a three-month public consultation from September to decide the future of the in-patient beds, said the spokesman.
"PCH remain committed to supporting the outcome of the consultation in delivering the most effective and appropriate patient care to the community in West Cornwall."
In a statement, NHS Kernow said it had reviewed all services in West Cornwall to identify local health needs and gaps in provision.
Neil Walden, a GP in Marazion and the locality lead for NHS Kernow, said it became clear residents wanted the future of Poltair determined once and for all.
"We have worked with local people over many months to work out what's really needed in our area.
"It's clear that a priority for the community is to make a decision on what's going to happen to the hospital.
"We will be working closely with the Poltair League of Friends to develop the options that we will then ask the public to comment on."
He said a series of meetings and workshops would be announced shortly.