THE future of Stamford Hospital is secure, hospital chiefs have pledged.
Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals Trust has revealed its vision for the future, saying it was a milestone for the hospital, guaranteeing the long-term future of the facility.
About 200 people attended a meeting held at the hospital today (Tuesday) by the trust board and heard medical director John Randall outline the ideas being considered to improve and extend the range of services provided.
Outpatient clinics could be expanded with more treatment options to avoid unnecessary trips to Peterborough City Hospital.
The minor injuries unit would become be nurse-led, with nurses able to perform tasks previously undertaken by junior doctors. They would be trained in areas such as resuscitation.
The day treatment unit would be expanded and chemotherapy clinics could be doubled.
The hospital would continue to offer services covering oncology, haematology, pain-management, antenatal services, ultrasound, X-ray. The endoscopy service could be reinstated and there could be more therapy sessions.
The phlembotomy service, which has been subject to a separate review, would be unchanged for patients and blood tests would continue to be offered. A decision on the future of the pathology lab will be made next week.
The only area that might be lost is the operating theatre but a second procedure room could be provided. The theatre’s future will depend on the South Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group – GPs who “buy” services from the hospital trust – which determines which services are offered and whether they feel the operating theatre is still necessary.
The trust is looking at providing smaller surgeries which do not require a general anaesthetic.
The trust gets 30 per cent of its income from services commissioned by GPs in south Lincolnshire and the board says it makes financial sense for Stamford Hospital to flourish.
Mr Randall said: “We recognise that the hospital is well regarded within the population but one of the things that does not come across often is that it is vital for us.
“If Stamford Hospital is not successful then we are not successful. What happens in Stamford is extremely important to us.”
In order to make sure the hospital provides the services which are most needed in the community the trust intends to work with patients, staff and GPs to find out what they think would work best at the site.
In particular the trust wants to keep the John Van Geest unit open as what it describes as a “step-up, step-down” intermediate care facility.
Doctors who feel their patients need more care, but not admitting to hospital, could recommend them to go there and people leaving hospital who are not yet ready to go home could also be given a bed.
Stamford GP Dr Miles Langdon, who is chairman of the Welland branch of the South Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Nothing like this has been co-ordinated before. It has always been one aspect at a time.
“This will stop rumours from reaching people who have a vested interest. These are sensible proposals.”
It is hoping that by expanding its services the hospital could also increase its catchment area, attracting patients from Rutland, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire.
Interim chief executive Peter Reading said: “When I went around Stamford Hospital on my first day I met some excellent staff who were providing an excellent service but who were doing it a building which is clearly long past it sell-by date.
“Nearly half the building is unused or empty. It is old, tired looking and not what we would expect in 2012.”
Mr Randall said: “We are particularly looking at Oakham. Patients from there travel to Leicester and we would like to see those patients come here.”
The trust hopes to transform the facility into a “health campus”, keeping hospital services in the east of the site and working with a charitable or non-for-profit organisation to redevelop the rest of the site.
It is not yet known how much the redevelopment would cost but the trust is hoping that any profits made from working in partnership with another organisation would be used to redevelop the rest of the hospital.
As the plans are only an outline proposal the trust does not yet know how much the project will cost or what effect it will have on jobs. Staff at the hospital were informed of the proposals this morning.
The trust intends to have a business plan in place by the autumn.
At the meeting, board members were asked whether there would be more clinics and more operations carried out at the hospital and whether the Van Geest unit would be improved.
Mr Randall said: “We are absolutely committed to providing more facilities. We feel the Van Geest ward is a vital part of the strategy.
“For operations we will have to see how a number of things stack up. Stamford is 15 miles away from an acute hospital. It may not be appropriate for patients to be having operations and general anaesthetic in an isolated unit. It may not be safe for some people.”
After the meeting, Dr Reading said: “I was delighted that so many staff and members of the public attended.
“The quality of the questions was very high. There is clearly an interest and support for the hospital which is exactly what we thought. It is extraordinary and fully deserved.
“We emphasised that it is all about the long-term future of the hospital and what we want to do over the next two months is convince the public and staff that this is the right way of doing it.”
Chris Preston, director of finance and performance, reported that the trust was performing better than expected financially.
The trust’s financial loss for the year totalled £8.6m by the end of May. This is £600,000 less than the predicted £9.2m for the first two months of the financial year.
Its income is £800,000 ahead of budget to the year. Clinical services account for £500,000 of this figure, in particular the trust’s contract with NHS Lincolnshire.
The pay bill has increased by £100,000 in line with the budget. Medical staffing costs are £600,000 higher than budgeted because of locum junior doctor usage but this is being offset by savings in other staff groups.
Out-sourcing and other overspends not linked to pay amount to £800,000 for the year so far. This is mainly due to outsourcing to help the trust to meet the 18-week target for elective operations.
Efficiency savings are slightly ahead of plan, with £1.4m delivered so far this financial year, £200,000 more than budgeted. The trust is expecting to make £13.2m in so-called Cost Improvement Plan savings over the course of the financial year.
Tell us your view of the plans.