New Care Teams Shape Up

The care system set up to replace axed community hospitals in Wiltshire is continuing to take shape later than originally planned. With county hospitals either to lose their general medical beds or to have the number of beds slashed, neighbourhood teams are drawing up final plans to take over.

It had been hoped that all the teams across Wiltshire would go to 24-hour working by October, but this has been delayed because of a dispute between health unions and Wiltshire Primary Care Trust (PCT).

Unison and the Royal College of Nursing were unhappy at the way existing NHS staff were transferred to the neighbourhood teams, so the start of 24-hour working has been put back until November.

The new teams include nurses, therapists and support workers who provide care to patients at home. The PCT has been working with staff to identify issues, concerns and potential problems before the system is rolled out across the county.

Issues and concerns raised by staff include the number of staff and skills available in each team and the flexible shift patterns, particularly with regards to working at night.

But West Wiltshire MP Dr Andrew Murrison has slammed the teams. He said: “The (hospital) closure programme is a textbook example of false economy and silo budgeting that will reduce the quality of healthcare available in west Wiltshire, even if it is implemented smoothly.

“My reading of this latest announcement from PCT high command is that the wheels are already falling off plans that it forged in the unshakable belief that it knew best and everyone else was wrong.”

Because of concerns about working at night, negotiations are taking place with the organisations that provide out of hours service, and it is planned to introduce the integrated neighbourhood team and out of hours services gradually.

West Wiltshire, where Wiltshire Medical Service covers out of hours, has been chosen as the first area of the county to test the new night system.

Chief executive of the PCT Jeff James said: “Once we have established the best fit between demand for the service and staffing and have demonstrated that the service is safe for those who work in it, we will extend it to the remainder of the county.”

Although general medical beds are to be axed at Melksham Hospital next month, the PCT plans to continue using the hospital for mental health beds. A decision is yet to be taken on when it will start providing the beds and how many there will be.