Health chiefs have come under fire for closing community hospital beds across the country as new figures show more patients that ever before are having to wait for more than four hours at overstretched A&Es.
Nearly a third of England’s 340 community hospitals have seen beds closed in the past 10 years, according to recent research by the University of Birmingham.
The loss of these valued health services is placing extra pressure on larger acute hospitals and leaving communities, particularly in rural areas, struggling to access emergency and routine healthcare, HuffPost UK has been told.
The criticism comes as new NHS England figures published Thursday show just 71% of patients were treated within target time last month at A&Es in England.
This is the worst performance against this target since records began.
A&Es are mean to treat and admit or discharge 98% of patients within four hours and doctors say the growing delays are putting both the safety and quality of patients’ care at risk.
Communities fighting to bring back community hospital services also told HuffPost UK they fear slashed services are potentially putting lives at risk.
In the latest of our What It’s Like To Lose series, we have spoken to people in Wantage, and in the South Devon town of Dartmouth, to ask about the impact of the closure of their community hospitals.
After nearly eight years of shrinking local budgets, the series has been examining the impact of disappearing public services – such as bus routes, leisure centres, job centres and hospitals.
Here in Wantage we are fighting to stop them closing our local hospital, built in the 1920s by public subscriptionTerry Knight
For almost a century the striking Wantage Community Hospital – built decades before the NHS was even founded from money raised by local subscriptions – has provided healthcare for the surrounding town.
But two-and-a-half years ago, all the in-patient beds were closed. Locals were told it was because of legionella in the building’s pipe works.