ASTONISHING Department of Health statistics, that reveal that 15 per cent of all beds at North Hampshire Hospital in Basingstoke are occupied by people well enough to be discharged, have raised serious questions about why the NHS is not making better use of community hospitals to relieve bed blocking.

In Alton, the future of the town’s community hospital is causing grave concern as the North Hampshire NHS Clinical Commissioning Group continues its review into future provision of health and health-related care services in the area.

With just 12 beds currently in use in what was originally a 48-bed, two-ward facility, there is fear for the future of the hospital. But these beds were at one time used to take patients recovering from time in the acute hospital, thereby freeing up beds for those people who may be having to wait for treatment because of it.

In Alton, the NHS North Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group is working in partnership with Hampshire County Council, Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (responsible for Basingstoke Hospital), Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust (responsible for Alton Community Hospital) and GPs to carry out a review of health services used by people in Alton and surrounding villages.

The clinical commissioning group is the organisation responsible for making sure that people continue to receive safe, high-quality health services, but with a duty to make sure that services it funds are affordable and offer good value for money.

Commenting on behalf of NHS North Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group about the bed blocking situation, Richard Hayes, head of communications and engagement, firmly denies that the current review is about closing Alton Community Hospital. He said: “It is about improving health services used by local people in Alton and elsewhere.”

But he added: “Looking at current use of beds at Alton and whether they might be used more effectively for a number of different purposes, including reducing pressure on acute hospital beds, is one of the many things we are exploring as part of that review.”

Statistics show that cancelled operations have rocketed by almost a third since last year as hospitals run out of beds.

According to research by the Daily Mail, Department of Health figures show that 6,000 beds are blocked on any one day in NHS hospitals and that over the course of one year more than 680,000 elderly patients languish on acute wards for weeks on end, even though they may be well enough to be looked after in a care home or at home with support from social services.

While 20 per cent of health authorities questioned by the Mail confirmed that around 10 per cent of their beds were blocked, the figure for North Hampshire was a whopping 15 per cent.

There is an argument that community hospitals such as Alton and Chase at Bordon should be used as a stepping stone to unblock these beds and facilitate the transition to care in the community.

Alton’s next public health consultation is scheduled to take place next Saturday, March 19, from 10am to 3pm at Alton Community Centre.

This will provide another opportunity, before any detailed proposals are developed, for people to receive an update on how the review is progressing and to express their views on the opportunities created by new models of care which are developing nationally and locally.

Members of the review team will give regular presentations throughout the day, with the final presentation at 2.15pm, followed by question-and-answer sessions and informal discussions. In between sessions there will be opportunities to speak with members of the team and others involved in the review.

Anyone unable to attend but who would like to share their views on health and health-related care services can e-mail [email protected].