Change is underway at Longridge Community Hospital.
The hospital will no longer offer 15 non-acute beds for the sole use of patients registered with Longridge GPs.
Instead, 10 of these beds will be used by a new service, which is already underway, aimed at keeping frail, elderly people out of hospital from all over the Chorley, South Ribble and greater Preston area.
Five of the beds will remain to be used by the two Longridge doctors’ surgeries as before, for those needing post-surgical care, medical care, rehabilitation or palliative care.
NHS bosses say the change is essential to secure the hospital’s future.
A spokesperson said: “The NHS operates within finite resources, and every NHS organisation is having to make best use of the resources available. Having a facility like Longridge Hospital only available to Longridge residents is not sustainable or equitable. If the clinical commissioning groups weren’t able to make better use of the facility, it would not have been secured for the future.”
She said the overall aim of the new frailty service was “to provide a community service to support frail older people so that they avoid unnecessary hospital admission”.
“This will ultimately help to reduce pressure on our over-stretched hospitals. Providing the service at Longridge Community Hospital secures the facility for the future for the benefit of Longridge residents and the wider community,” she said.
She said there would be no job losses and all the other community services run from the hospital would continue to operate from there.
Jayne Mellor, head of planning and delivery for the CCGs across Chorley, South Ribble and Greater Preston said they had engaged with the town council and GP practices, who, she said, “welcomed the new proposals and are in full support”.
She said: “Longridge Community Hospital is a fantastic facility and we know how valued it is by residents of Longridge. It is exciting that we can share this excellent resource with the wider population and we hope to be able to introduce more services at the site to really maximise its potential for the benefit of our whole population.”
Longridge Mayor, Coun Rupert Swarbrick confirmed the new service had the council’s blessing.
He said: “We are delighted. It is fantastic news.”
Coun Swarbrick felt there had been a real prospect of the hospital being closed completely and said he believed if it hadn’t been for the good, modern building, this would have been the case.
“It is being re-purposed,” said Coun Swarbrick.
NHS service bosses say healthcare organisations working together to deliver the new frailty service identified Longridge Community Hospital as the most appropriate facility.
They also confirm the new service, still very much in its infancy, is aimed at keeping people well and independent at home, thus reducing the need for hospital admission where possible.
Dr Matt Orr, Chorley GP and GP director at Chorley and South Ribble Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We know frail older people tend to have a longer length of stay and an increase in complications if they get admitted to hospital.
“The service is for those people who don’t necessarily need hospital treatment but who, without help to stay well and independent at home, would likely end up being admitted to hospital.”
Frail older people identified as in need of some support, but who don’t need admission to hospital, will be referred by a healthcare professional to the service to be looked after by an advanced nurse practitioner, physiotherapist, occupational therapist and support workers, together with social workers and mental health liaison.
The team will consider a person’s physical and mental health needs; how they function with daily activities such as washing and dressing; what existing support networks they have in place, and their home environment. A care plan will then be put in place to help keep the person safe, well and supported at home.
The aim is to have people assessed and ready to go home on the same day, but where this isn’t possible, people may be admitted to a bed for up to 72 hours.
Dr Orr added: “We are confident the service will improve the experience of care for frail older people, as they will avoid admission to hospital unless absolutely necessary. This, in turn, will help free up capacity at our hospitals, which is particularly important as we head into the busy winter period.”
Jayne Mellor said they were pleased to be able to safeguard the long term sustainability of Longridge hospital and the new service’s emphasis was on elderly people “returning home as soon as possible”.
She said: “The ultimate aim is to utilise 10 beds specifically for our frail older population across central Lancashire, including Longridge, by the end of March 2017. “Five beds will remain exclusively for Longridge patients.
“Admissions to the frailty assessment service will usually be made by a GP.
“It is too soon to have data on the utilisation of the service, but initial activity shows a number of patients using the frailty service have avoided a hospital admission and have remained at home.”