In his first Gale’s View after deciding to suspend his column in the Isle of Thanet Gazumph, Roger Gale takes a hard look at the shambles being managed by our nation’s very own” Nanny.”
Prime Minister Blair has, we are told, taken personal charge of the Health Service. Not quite enough charge to personally face the nurses, of course but enough charge to be held responsible for the financial shambles that the "Nation's Nanny", Patricia Hewitt, has allowed to evolve.
So perhaps Mr. Blair would like to come to East Kent and to visit Fordwich Ward at the QEQM hospital in Margate. He will find that it is shut.
Fordwich Ward began life as the Hatfield Ward, taking the hospital’s private patients until the opening of the new Spencer Wing at the end of the last(20th) century. It was then transformed into a fourteen-bedded short-term surgical ward operating for five days a week as Fordwich Ward.
In August 2004 the ward** was closed, fully refurbished and extended to take24 beds and re- opened for business on a seven-day a week basis in January 2005. A dedicated team of more than 20 nursing staff was built up and ran the surgical ward until December 2005 when an overnight switch was made to create a medical ward to respond to the "Winter Crisis" that did not happen.
Medical wards take mainly elderly and longer stay patients Surgical wards tend to take younger, fitter patients who attend for operations, recover and leave. It is, therefore, easier to switch from surgical to medical treatment than to reverse the process.
Nevertheless, it was expected by nursing staff and patients that Fordwich would revert to the surgical use for which it was designed on 3rd April.
A Government funding cut of £20 million, not bad management as has been suggested, precipitated the planned closure of the ward at the end of May.
The ward was in fact shut when a toaster caught fire on 10th April and it has not re-opened.
As a result of this closure “outlyers" - patients for whom there are now no beds on specialist wards - are having to be regularly accommodated and last week nine extra beds, for which there are no curtains and no privacy, were being crammed onto other wards.
And all this while Fordwich lies shut through lack of funds.
The dedicated Fordwich nursing staff are, I understand, now peripatetic.
They turn up each day (or night) not knowing where they are going to work or what kind of services they are to be required to provide. Nurses are trained to do, and will do, whatever nursing tasks are demanded of them but patient-contact and relationships and job-satisfaction matter and, for these people, no longer exist.
Are you proud of this "best year ever" Mr. Blair?