Whitby Group Practice has stopped admitting patients to the War Memorial Ward at the town’s hospital.
Nursing staff at the hospital have been told not to accept any of the practice’s 15,000 patients for that ward under the care of doctors from the practice and to “not become embroiled in conflict” around the matter.
The latest move, revealed to the Gazette in a series of leaked internal staff memos, is as a result of Whitby Group Practice opting out of a historic bed fund payment.
This is where the practice would make a nominal payment towards the running of the ward. Since the beginning of December, patients have not been accepted for care on the ward and from December 21 patients were also being refused day care treatment on both the War Memorial and Abbey ward – the second ward at Whitby Hospital.
In the intervening three- week period senior staff at Whitby Hospital reviewed the patients it had from Whitby Group Practice.
Some were discharged as routine, but the Gazette also understands that for some patients who would have been admitted under normal circumstances “it has been inevitable for some people it would be more difficult to find them a bed”.
Alternative arrangements to accommodate patients have had to be made with the Abbey ward and Scarborough Hospital, according to the memos, while around half of the War Memorial ward beds remain empty.
War Memorial Ward is historically used for palliative and end-of-life care and rehabilitation for conditions such as strokes.
Patients will be managed by out of hours or community teams or at Scarborough Hospital instead.
Whitby Group Practice is based at the Spring Vale Medical Centre near Pannett Park, and it also has a satellite practi9ce at Robin H0ood’s Bay.
Patients under the care of the following practices have been unaffected – Sleights and Sandsend; Staithes, Egton and Danby.
One of the documents said: “There will be a limit on how many patients each of these practoces can manage on war mem [sic] so the likely number of patients at any time will be around 10. We must continue to give the total bed availability number up to 20 beds when we are asked for this. SGH have been informed of the new arrangements. If there is any pressure from other hospitals to take unsuitable patients please escalate this to an on call manager do not become embroiled in conflict around this”.
The bed fund is an out of date concept and was etsablished when GPs would manage their own patients and visit them in hospital and provide care. However, due to less doctors Whitby Group Practice cannot commit to the service as it is compromising treatment of patients at the surgery so it opted out of paying into the fund.
Dr Stephen Johnson, the current chairman of Whitby Group Practice said: “After much discussion, Whitby Group Practice has decided to stop one of its services to Whitby Hospital. From 23rd December we will no longer be looking after our own patients on the War Memorial Ward.
“The practice has always striven to provide the highest quality of care to our patients but found that we were becoming overstretched and unable to guarantee a high level of care to those patients.
“We have worked hard with York Trust and the local Clinical Commissioning Group to minimise disruption to hospital patients. We remain committed to the future of the hospital and look forward to working with the new provider in 2016.”
The change in practice has not been helped by delays in appointing a service provider for community and out of hours care. Virgin Healthcare were set to take over this from July 2015 but after a dispute between health bosses and the preferred bidder the contract went to second placed bidder, the Humber NHS Trust which will take over in March.