MP Launches Hospital Bed Closures Probe

MP Ian Liddell-Grainger is launching his own investigation into the closure of beds at Minehead and Williton hospitals, warning he will not accept third-rate health care provision in West Somerset.
He is demanding meetings with health officials in the area with a view to preparing a file on the issue for Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Mr Liddell-Grainger, the Conservative member for Bridgwater and West Somerset, says he is furious at the way bed spaces have been lost, obliging more patients to be sent to hospitals outside the area.

Last year six stroke unit beds at Williton hospital were closed, leaving those needing specialist care no option but to be admitted to the unit at South Petherton.

And just a week before Christmas came the abrupt closure of 10 beds at Minehead hospital, with Andy Heron, chief operating officer of Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, blaming a ‘deteriorating staffing situation’.

Patients and some staff were transferred to a mothballed ward at Williton.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said he had already raised the issue of the closures with Mr Hunt. 

“I have promised him a full report as to what has taken place because it is clearly a ridiculous situation to have a modern hospital that was opened only six years ago standing empty,” he said.

“Nobody was warned in advance that this might be happening and it came as a real bombshell for everyone.

“It has been suggested that this crisis has arisen because of a deliberate non-recruitment policy ordered by the trust in order to save money, which left the hospital running on a knife-edge. If it turns out to be the case that this crisis was at least partly self-inflicted then it is clearly mismanagement on the highest scale.

“The impact of both these bed losses is now being widely felt across West Somerset particularly by patients’ relatives, partly because public transport provision is very limited and hospital visiting outside the district therefore difficult.

“I am reluctant to say it but this very looks very much like another case of the authorities saying ‘It’s only West Somerset so it doesn’t matter’.

“I am not prepared to accept that attitude. People in West Somerset have the same right as anyone else of access to the health services their taxes pay for – and I intend to see they get it.”