New Whipps Cross Hospital could have 50 fewer beds than existing hospital

Whipps Cross University Hospital has 576 beds. The new version could only have 525 beds. Picture: Ke

Whipps Cross University Hospital has 576 beds. The new version could only have 525 beds. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

A newly released report on the Whipps Cross Hospital rebuild explains why bed numbers could be cut by more than 50 despite a growing population.

Barts Health NHS Trust, which manages the hospital, published its vision for the “once-in-a-lifetime” redevelopment on September 4.

The current Whipps Cross University Hospital has 576 beds available, while for the new hospital the trust has “adopted an assumption of 525 beds”.

In 2016, the hospital had 636 beds but this has gradually reduced over the intervening years.

The local population is expected to grow by 10 per cent over the next decade but the trust expects improved care out of hospital and faster treatment will reduce the number of beds needed.

On average, it says only 576 hospital beds were open each day in 2018/19 and insists the new hospital will be able to increase capacity as and when required.

The trust’s “best case scenario” is that work will begin on the new site in autumn 2022 and finish by autumn 2026.

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The new hospital will be constructed on the site of disused nurses’ accommodation, allowing treatment to continue in the existing building throughout.

By reducing the size of the current “sprawling” site, the trust will make room for around 1,500 homes, half of which will be affordable, to contribute towards the cost of the rebuild.

Why there will be fewer beds

The trust expects speeding up treatment and reducing the number of people who become sick enough to be admitted will allow it to cope with fewer beds.

Its report, published last week, reads: “Our local partners plan to improve care and support outside of hospital, so we expect more people will avoid having to come to A&E than would have been the case, because they will be better supported in or closer to their homes.

“For example, our partners in Waltham Forest and Redbridge are working to improve care for people with long term conditions such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis or chronic asthma.

“The effect will be less people reaching the stage where they need hospital and those already there will be able to be more quickly discharged safely.”

It also expects more patients to be seen and treated on the same day rather than admitted, thanks to doubling the capacity for tests with more CT and MRI scanners.

The report adds: “We would anticipate the overall amount of days that patients spend in a hospital bed could fall by 10 per cent over the next ten years.”

Local opposition

A petition earlier this year calling for the trust to include more beds in the rebuilt hospital received more than 5,700 signatures.

Speaking in February, Waltham Forest Save Our NHS campaigner Mary Burnett said: “There is a mantra that we do not need more beds because everything can be done in the community, which is outrageous actually.

“You can’t get an appointment with the GP because we do not have enough. Social services is on its knees and staff in social care are not nursing staff.

“What’s really concerning about this is when things go wrong in the hospital it gets picked up, but if an elderly person dies at home because they did not have the treatment they needed, the responsibility for it can become much more complex.

“We need a new hospital but if we get one with not enough beds, we will still have people waiting on trolleys to be admitted.”

The hospital will receive £350million from the government over five years to fund the rebuild, one of six hospitals in the country to receive extra funding.

In the autumn, Barts Health NHS Trust will host large virtual public events in partnership with local councils to gather views and further shape the plans.