An expert has warned the proposed Whipps Cross Hospital will not meet local needs without more community healthcare staff.
Concerns have repeatedly been raised about the number of beds proposed in the designs for a new hospital at Whipps Cross, which is awaiting a funding decision in spring this year.
Current proposals are promising “flexible” designed wards containing between 515 and 600 beds, supported by a “transformed” community health system that will place less demand on the hospital.
Health campaigners and local politicians have questioned why the proposed number of beds is no more than the existing average bed capacity of 576, despite predictions of an approximate 10 per cent population growth in the next decade.
To allay people’s fears, a multi-council committee was formed to scrutinise the plans and featured talks from three health experts, who gave their takes on the population modelling used to predict the hospital’s future needs.
Robert Van Der Meer, professor of management science at the University of Strathclyde, told the committee he had “no problem” with the modelling but said it relied on the new healthcare system being “very effective”.
He said: “I’m aware of how much pressure we’re under in the UK; there’s a problem with getting the right workforce in place because social care jobs are not well remunerated, and that needs to be better.”
The NHS’s plan to take pressure off Whipps Cross, despite the growing population, involves investing in a new integrated care system (ICS), which will focus on preventing illness, increasing community health services, and better access to diagnostics and same-day support.
A spokesperson from NHS North East London Clinical Commissioning Group said Redbridge and Waltham Forest will have a £32million budget increase between 2020 and 2024 to help integrate presently disjointed healthcare services.
Slides prepared for the committee predict a 19-20 per cent reduction in urgent hospital admissions and up to 22 per cent fewer planned attendances. The ‘do nothing’ option would see a need for an average of 643 beds by 2028/29.
Professor Martin Vernon, a geriatric consultant who has been advising the Whipps Cross redevelopment team, said the plan needs “substantial investment” in three things: population and health management, healthcare in people’s homes, and intermediate care, which means intensive short-term treatment to aid recovery after a fall, acute illness or operation.
Dr Vernon added: “This is really about workforce development and capacity, so there is investment going into that, this work is entirely consistent with that – but it does require all systems to work together in a co-ordinated way.”
Redbridge councillor Beverley Brewer said she was “not assured today at all,” saying the bed number predictions were based on “unsatisfactory assumptions” about the social care sector being able to cope despite “twelve years of deep cuts” and the increasing demand on maternity services.