Inpatient care cut will affect the elderly

Horton General Hospital in Banbury
Horton General Hospital in Banbury

Health chiefs are planning to end inpatient services for older people with serious mental health conditions in Banbury.

The Fiennes unit, on the Horton General Hospital site, currently has 17 beds and treats people with a range of issues including dementia. The plan is to treat as many as possible ‘closer to home’ and to send those who need inpatient care to a unit at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford.

Banbury’s Keep the Horton General (KTHG) group, which campaigns for protection of health services in the area, has voiced concern about the huge disruption for friends and family of patients who may be forced travel to and from Oxford for months at a time.

The average stay for such patients – which has been reduced by 21 per cent in the past five months – is over 77 days.

Dr Peter Fisher of KTHG said: “If the average patient stays in for 11 weeks then sending them to Oxford would be truly appalling for relatives and detrimental to patients.

“At a time when the proportion of older people in the community is increasing, a facility should not be closed without very careful thought and discussion with those involved – the relatives and carers.”

A source close to the service, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “Most of the patients at the Fiennes are there because they or their carers cannot cope at home or in their care facility.

“They are then cared for and assessed in the Fiennes until a solution to their particular problem can be found.

“It seems instead of this assessment taking place over a few days or weeks it will now be done within four hours by ‘Duty Function’. Care will then be done by various healthcare professionals at home or in their care facility.

“So rather than having all your patients in one safe, secure and easily monitored facility, they will be in up to 17 different geographical locations, with the costs and problems this will bring.

“With the new system they and their carers will have to cope or be sent to Oxford or, if that is full, possibly to Aylesbury.”

Oxford Health Foundation Trust said in a media release: “With increased services to support people with dementia (and carers) at home and the refurbished Fulbrook centre in Oxford as the main inpatient facility, it is proposed the Fiennes inpatient ward in Banbury will close. This will allow for further investment in the community-based model.

“The changes would allow greater investment in staff at the Oxford unit providing better patient care and safety.

“When older people with serious mental health conditions including dementia are admitted to hospital, it can be a traumatic experience, causing further disorientation and the loss of everyday skills.

“There is strong evidence that moving care closer to home results in better clinical outcomes: fewer hospital admissions, shorter stays at hospital and a more likely prospect of future wellbeing,” the trust said.

The trust said the changes include better integrated working between mental health and community health teams and extended working days for mental health teams to provide services seven days a week during the day.

“The plans allow for the community Older Adult Mental Health team and clinics to continue on the Fiennes site. A new ‘community hub’ would be established there bringing together a range of services for older people,” it said.