Tuesday, 20 January 2015
The cost of three nurses?
WHEN I heard that the NHS Trust, so determined to close hospital beds in Axminster come what may, had gone back to the High Court to achieve that goal, the first thing I did was to instruct reporter Anders Larsson to ask how much the legal proceedings were costing.
We half expected the Northern Devon Healthcare Trust to come back saying that this was sensitive information they could not release. Had that been the case, we would have used the Freedom of Information Act to find out how much they were spending on seeing through their plan to close in-patient beds in Axminster and move them to Seaton.
We were surprised therefore to get a prompt answer from chief executive Dr Alison Diamond confirming that they had allocated “precious NHS” resources - her words, not mine - to “defend themselves in cases like this” amounting to £75,000 to legally enable them to “maintain a safe service for patients”.
Defend themselves from what?
We are talking about the temporary closure here for the winter months, not the long term plan to shut the beds to save £500,000 and put a question mark over the future of Axminster Hospital. That decision will not be made until the extended period of consultation expires in February. There is great suspicion in and around Axminster that that decision has been made.
So the NHS is expecting to spend £75,000 on justifying their temporary closure. I don’t know how much a nurse earns these days - but seventy five grand would probably cover the cost of three nurses, certainly one supervisor.
Has the world gone crazy?
Every day we read that the NHS is virtually bankrupt, haemorrhaging money, and here we are spending £75,000 on legal advice on a temporary closure when Axminster League of Friends have offered £300,000 to keep the beds open. We all accept these are difficult days for the NHS and no one doubts the sincerity of health officials to do what is best for patients.
But spending £75k on legal advice is a bitter pill to swallow in such circumstances.