NHS chief's reassurance over plans to cut Sunderland Eye Infirmary beds

NHS chiefs have attempted to reassure the public over plans to reduce the number of beds at a rebuilt Sunderland Eye Infirmary from 22 to eight.

Friday, 16th April 2021, 6:49 pm
Sunderland Eye Infirmary

The city centre’s former Vaux Brewery site has been earmarked for the new £36 million eye hospital, to replace its current ageing base in Queen Alexandra Road.

But while the need for the move have been largely accepted, fears have been raised over the implications of a cut to capacity for patients who have to stay overnight.

“Although we are looking at a bed reduction compared to the current eye infirmary, where we currently have 22 beds at the infirmary, we never use those 22 beds,” said Peter Sutton, executive director of planning and business development at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.

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“Our average occupancy is probably more like four or five beds, in terms of the actual usage, because the vast majority of procedures we undertake at the Eye Infirmary are undertaken on a day case basis.

“One of the things we’re looking at to put in place is what we call day surgery admission and increasing our capacity there.”

Sutton was speaking at this week’s (Wednesday, April 14) meeting of Sunderland City Council’s (SCC) Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

A report for the panel revealed a loss of 14 inpatient beds has been recommended for the new site, although final plans are still to be confirmed.

Proposals have instead suggested an ‘ambulatory care area’ with space for up to six patients who could be treated without full admission to a ward, as well as 10 ‘recovery rooms’ for patients attending for day procedures.

Sutton also insisted that as the facility would be for ‘single speciality use’ it would not be impacted by bed pressures seen in other hospitals caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Some on the panel were unconvinced however, such as Cllr Martin Haswell, who also raised concerns about future city centre parking costs for patients.

He said: “I’m really concerned about this discussion of bed reduction, it sounds as if these beds, as they can’t be redeployed, would be mothballed.

“This is very much being sold as a lift and drop and sold as an improvement, but actually a cut in bed sounds to me like a cut in service.”

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