The in-patient unit at Rutland Memorial Hospital could close under proposals announced this week to make the Oakham site into a hub for health and social care for the area.
Recommendations were leaked on Monday which show that the health trusts in the area could scale back almost all community hospitals in Leicestershire and Rutland. with Oakham earmarked to lose all of its in-patient beds.
It is part of a drive to help save £400m in the period up to 2021.
But the draft version of the Sustainability and Transformation Plan, which sets out health planning for the next five years, also reveals plans to turn Rutland Memorial Hospital in Cold Overton Road into a “hub for health and adult and children social care services”.
This would include increased planned care outpatient, therapy services, diagnostics and well-being services which will integrate with a GP led evening and weekend urgent care service for the people of Rutland.
The draft report did not give any timescales on when the proposals might be implemented if they are approved, but a 12-week consultation period on the proposals is expected to start early next year with no final decisions being taken until Summer 2017.
Healthwatch Rutland chairman Jennifer Fenelon said it was “vital” people have a chance to shape the proposals.
She said: “Healthwatch Rutland will be arranging a series of events over the next few weeks to allow people to give their opinions. We will publish details of these events through your newspaper and hope that as many people as possible will be able to participate.”
The report says that a feasibility study, designed to ensure the provision of health and social care services for the expanding population of Rutland, “underpins the vision” for Rutland Memorial Hospital.
Under the plans, patients who would have used the in-patient unit would be cared for in their own homes, through the intensive community support scheme, or in other local community hospitals.
It is proposed to spend £3.8m on an extension at the Melton Mowbray hospital for a 21-bed rehabilitation services that would be transferred from Oakham - and to spend a further £1m in 2020/21 on converting the old ward space at the Oakham site into ambulatory clinic rooms and team base. This would bring together health and social care services based elsewhere and turn Rutland Memorial Hospital into a “single health and social care campus in the town”.
As part of the plans, St Mary’s Birth Centre in nearby Melton would also close and acute services at Leicester General would be re-located at the Leicester Royal Infirmary and Glenfield Hospitals.
The plan was due to be released today but was released early after BBC Leicester was given a copy.
A joint statement by Healthwatch groups in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland (LLR), said: “While we understand the need to make efficiency savings to maintain the very existence of the NHS and social care in LLR this should not be at the cost of quality provision which meets the needs of patients and public.”
It went onto say the groups were concerned that cuts to the number of hospital beds - a reduction of 281 across the whole area from 2,173 to 1,892, would not be viable unless there was a “huge injection of resource” into community and social care, which it warned could take “several years” due to a shortfall in GPs in the area.
The statement concluded: “Healthwatch in Leicester City, Leicestershire and Rutland will work to ensure the detail in the plan is critically evaluated, that the patient and public voice is central to the STP, and that public consultation is not just a tick box exercise.”
The plan, which was put together by University of Hospitals Leicester, Leicestershire Partnership Trust, East Midlands Ambulance Service and all the area’s clinical commissioning groups, has identified savings of £412.9m, but £98.4m of central funding has been requested to help balance the books.
The improvements proposed will cost £350m and of this, £250m will need to be found from “new external sources”.
A joint statement released by the groups that formed the plan said: “The plan sets out how services can be changed for the better to improve care and the patient experience, while addressing the problem of demand for services continually outpacing the resources available. In order to deliver these aspirations it means the services we deliver, and where and how we offer them, will need to change.”
In 2016/17 alone, the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland system will spend £2.121 billion on health and social care.
People can find out more about the plans by visiting www.bettercareleicester.nhs.uk where they can give their initial thoughts.