HEALTH unions are warning the closure of a ward for elderly people at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital is just the tip of the iceberg with further closures to come.
The closure of Ward Q1 is part of the Health Trust’s long term plan to reduce bed numbers and shift people back into the community.
In a consultation document NHS Trust managers confirm the overall plan will require the eventual closure of four medical wards.
The changes, they insist, are being made to make treatment of elderly people more efficient by reducing the number of expensive beds being taken up by people who are not chronically ill.
Further closures will follow but not, they say, until adequate provision has been made in the community.
The closure of the ward will also mean more than 30 staff will be redeployed to other wards.
Consultation with the unions on the first phase of the plan ended yesterday.
Andy Freeman, UNISON Regional Organiser, said he sympathised with trust bosses who he said are being forced to slash millions of pounds from their budgets.
Mr Freeman said: “The trust is faced with some very difficult decisions in order to save £40 million this financial year so this proposal is the thin end of a very large wedge.
“The consultation outlined the intention to close four wards so this is just the start.
“The impact on patients, particularly the elderly, will be immediate.
“We already know that on top of this there are going to be reconfigurations in Theatres as funding for surgery has been drastically reduced.”
Unison’s Regional Head of Health Pam Johnson added: “Government plans for the NHS are directly responsible for these proposals in Sheffield.
“Quite clearly there is much worse to come, you can’t save these sorts of figures without more service reduction. What, I ask, is the Deputy Prime Minister, doing about this?
“Mr Clegg, a Sheffield MP, is sitting by while his Government’s policies strangle the NHS as we know it.”
She went on to thank the hundreds of people who signed a petition opposing the proposed closures and added: “The impact of ward closures like this are always keenly felt by patients and their families and we are deeply concerned about the impact these changes will have.”