Hospital chiefs confirmed this week that the Horton General Horton’s E-Ward is to close overnight and become a smaller day case unit.
The Oxford University Hospitals Trust said it would replace the 24-hour, 17-bed surgical ward with a 12-bed ward for day case surgery only.
Any complicated cases that need to be kept in hospital will be cared for in F-Ward, the orthopaedic recovery ward, or on other wards in the hospital.
The trust says if the arrangement becomes permanent, it will stage a public consultation.
Trust bosses, under new CEO Bruno Holtof, say the move is part of a £2 million attempt to end ‘bed blocking’ - where patients from other parts of the hospital are stranded in expensive beds because social care packages are not available - usually because of funding restrictions within the cash-strapped county council.
However it has emerged the new plan to reduce ‘delayed discharges’ will only be funded until March and planning for beyond that starts in January.
The Banbury Guardian reported on the closure last week after staff had been briefed. At that time the trust did not openly admit overnight care on E-Ward would cease.
“Staff are upset and emotions are running very high,” a staff source said last week. “All general surgery patients, including emergency patients, are treated on the ward staffed by surgical nurses. Several years ago day-case moved into part of the ward and the day case unit became the current endoscopy area.
“When emergency surgery was transferred to Oxford two years ago this left planned general surgery on E-Ward with beds for gynaecology patients if needed. The ward is also used for any poorly day case patients who have had operations and are not well enough to be released the same day.
“If the ward use is changed from its current configuration, planned surgery is compromised.”
Susan Brown, spokesman for the OUHT, said: “The NHS is commissioning 30 intermediate care beds in nursing homes in north Oxfordshire (from none previously).
“The freeing up of beds at the Horton as patients are moved to more appropriate care will allow us to perform more day-case surgery at the Horton, treating an additional 30 to 40 patients a week from early new year. We will do this by opening 12 additional day-case beds on E-Ward.
“In addition, we will have an additional capacity for 12 medical patients on other wards at the Horton (for) patients we always tend to see in winter, rather than having to transfer patients to the John Radcliffe.
“The transfer plan will need to be evaluated before further decisions are taken. If it is decided to reconfigure facilities on a permanent basis this would be subject to a public consultation.
“With a movement of a large number of patients at one time, there will be an opportunity to move staff to provide services we are commissioned to provide. There will be no redundancies.”
Ms Brown said local nursing homes do have capacity to accept 30 patients. The £2m to pay for those places and other intermediate care will come from an OCCG investment reserve as a ‘one-off initiative’.
Staffing elsewhere, including therapists, social workers, hospital doctors and GPs is being strengthened to provide hospital-at-home, she said.
Ms Brown said gynaecology patients would also be cared for in F-Ward.