Volunteers from Westminster Hospital League of Friends have recruited Shaftesbury’s Member of Parliament as a new, paying member.
Alfred heard more from Friends volunteers on their stand at this week’s agricultural show.
Denise Potter says she was asked the same question time and time again when she chatted with members of the public at Wednesday’s show. “Are the hospital beds safe?” She says she was pleased to offer a positive reply. “The hospital is still safe. We have still got our beds, but please support us and join the League of Friends. We need new members and need new ideas to raise money to buy equipment that we need,” she said.
That sales pitch worked on Shaftesbury’s MP, Simon Hoare. He joined up as a ‘friend’ and paid his £5 annual fee in the tent. “I’ve been meaning to do it for months and months and I’ve taken away the forms, and I can never remember my bank details. Suddenly, I had all the paperwork with me. I did it there and then,” Mr Hoare said.
Last week, Alfred reported that the board of Dorset Healthcare, who operate services at the Westminster Memorial, had recommended to the Clinical Commissioning Group NHS body for Dorset that the hospital beds should be retained unless there’s a significant change within local healthcare.
Simon is not aware of how the CCG will vote, but he remains hopeful that they will be guided by Dorset Healthcare’s decision. “The CCG listened very carefully to responses to the public consultation last time around. I think it was very clear that they supported the retention of the beds, understanding both their importance in terms of the geographical layout of healthcare provision across the county and the growing recognition of the importance of the interim care beds. If you want to take the pressure off the acute sector at Poole, Bournemouth, Southampton and Salisbury, you have to have these interim care beds,” Simon said.
At the Westminster Memorial Hospital AGM last week, staff revealed how the average patient stay in one of Shaftesbury’s 15 hospital beds is 20 days. Some small hospitals house patients for an average of 35 days. A shorter patient stay is important and not just because people want to go home or to more homely surroundings.
The AGM heard that an average 80-year-old will effectively age 10 years in health terms after 10 days in the hospital. People aged over 90 can experience over 90% functional decline following a short time in hospital. “There is a growing recognition (of community hospitals) across the National Health Service. It is particularly emanating from the Department of Health, which had been a little bit cool towards community and district hospitals twelve years ago. That has now changed. Their important role within the broader NHS healthcare family is now more readily understood. I think the prospectus is very good for the CCG to take a permanent position to retain those beds at Shaftesbury,” said Mr Hoare.
He says he will continue to support the retention of the beds and would like increased provision. “Ideally, I would like to see the numbers of beds go up to where they were four or five years ago,” he said.
Despite Wednesday’s weather, Denise says that League volunteers were kept busy, speaking with a steady flow of visitors and encouraging them to support their fundraising for two electrical vehicles that will be used frequently by hospital staff visiting patients at home. The League members were also promoting membership, which gives access to a newsletter detailing activities.
“Since we’re having events now in the hospital four times a year, thanks to Matron, that’s helped us tremendously, rather than the individual coffee mornings. We are getting a lot more people,” said Denise.
Simon Hoare paid tribute to the efforts of the keen League volunteers. “It has to be the most humble and heartfelt thank you,” said Simon.
You can download a membership form at friendswmhshaftesbury.org.uk.