Hospital open day abandoned

THE increasing workload in Hinchingbrooke Hospital s underused new £25million treatment centre at a time of financial crisis has led the trust to abandon plans for an open day this Saturday. Part of the hospital s need to save £9.6million by next April re

THE increasing workload in Hinchingbrooke Hospital's underused new £25million treatment centre at a time of financial crisis has led the trust to abandon plans for an open day this Saturday.

Part of the hospital's need to save £9.6million by next April results from the centre generating £2.6million less than planned. It had hoped to attract patients from across Cambridgeshire to the state-of-the-art facility, but numbers have fallen short.

With 30 per cent unused capacity at the centre, the trust decided to move in gynaecological treatment and is set to shift orthopaedic surgery to the new theatres.

The centre, which opened last October, was intended to take patients for a maximum of 23 hours - "day cases" represent 80 per cent of elective surgery. But the spare capacity means it can now accommodate stays of up to four nights, significantly expanding the range of treatment.

"We are moving more work in there all the time and doing more complex surgery," a hospital spokesman said, though she could not say precisely how much more of the capacity was now being used.

But, with the savings meaning up to 200 jobs could be lost, the hospital decided it was not the best time to add to staff workloads by showing off the facilities to the public.

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"The open day was something we had planned, but this is a difficult time for all our staff and we felt it was unfair to ask them to do the extra it would involve," the spokesman said. "We shall do it at a more appropriate time."

Moving gynaecological work to the treatment centre enabled the hospital to close Rowan Ward. Poplar Ward, the old home of day surgery, closed last year, and Holly, the children's ward, will become vacant as soon as a new paediatric facility is finished early next year.

This means the three wards at the southern end of the complex can be moved into the vacated space, taking patients into the heart of the hospital, closer to their treatment. It will cut down on staff time walking or pushing beds between those wards and patients' treatment.

More importantly for the cash-strapped trust, the hospital will no longer have to pay the capital charges and, although there will be limited impact this year, this will generate significant savings for subsequent years.

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