Whittington Hospital chief claims hospital wards age elderly by a year, as plans to shift care into community are detailed

Whittington Health chairman Joe Liddane

Whittington Health chairman Joe Liddane - Credit: Archant

A week in hospital ages an elderly person by a whole year, claims a health chief at Whittington Hospital as it starts a major push to get old people with chronic conditions off its wards.

Joe Liddane, chairman of Whittington Health, made the statement as he revealed more details this week about plans to shift patients with long-term conditions back home and into the care of community clinics.

The hospital in Magdala Avenue, Archway – which plans to sell off almost half of its site – hopes the move will enable it to concentrate on patients with serious acute problems, cut 500 of its 4,000 staff and reduce its adult beds from 240 to 177.

Health bosses insist patients who are chronically ill, especially elderly people with dementia, are better off at home.

Dr Yi Mien Koh, chief executive of Whittington Health, which runs the Whittington and 30 health centres in Islington and Haringey, continued: “The majority of people on the wards are older people and the majority of them have dementia. The best place for these people is at home.”

Mr Liddane said: “A week in the life of an older person in hospital is equal to a year’s ageing. You become a patient rather than a person. You have very little responsibility. Seventy-two per cent of the cost of a hospital nationally is on long-term conditions and the vast majority of these patients are elderly.”

Wards earmarked for closure are Cloudesley, which cares for older people, Meyrick, which cares for older people and acute patients, and Betty Mansell which could be converted into a gynaecological day ward.

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Campaigners are worried that elderly patients will not be as well looked after at home and may be more vulnerable to falls or accidents.

While Whittington Health employs hundreds of district nurses who will be able to carry out tests and medications, day-to-day care will be the responsibility of carers paid for by the local authority.

Dr Koh admitted: “We provide health care. We can’t say whether people will receive adequate social care or not.” But she added that the hospital works “very closely with the councils”, with social workers regularly present on ward rounds.

Patients with diseases such as diabetes, heart and respiratory conditions, and those recovering from operations such as hip replacements, will also be increasingly cared for at home.

What will remain on the main hospital site are accident and emergency, maternity, intensive and neo-natal care, elective and emergency surgery and treatment for serious and urgent medical conditions – and it is this that the Whittington wants to invest in.

Mr Liddane said the move was recommended by doctors, was expected by the hospital’s GP commissioners and was part of a long-term trend.

He said: “In my day, there were three separate hospitals with 2,000 beds. As time has gone by, we have consolidated on to one site with 360 beds (including maternity) and we treat people more successfully – thanks to advances in technology, drugs and in nursing and doctoring.”

The hospital believes that even though it does sometimes suffer bed shortages – particularly in winter – it would be able to deal with this by opening up more beds or postponing non-urgent operations. It is confident that with a staff turnover of 450 a year, it will make few compulsory redundancies.