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Nurse jobs at risk as role of Norfolk community unit changes

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Nurses working at an intermediate care unit in Cromer, North Norfolk, face an anxious wait to hear whether they will keep their jobs.

Clinical leaders in North Norfolk have voted to keep all 18 beds open at the Benjamin Court unit, which currently employs 13 nurses and 26 staff members in all.

“We are aware that this will have implications for our staff”

Lorrayne Barrett

But the unit’s role is set to change and its management will pass from Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust to Norfolk County Council, meaning staff changes are likely.

A trust spokeswoman said: “We have 13 registered nurses – 12 band 5s and one band 7; we also have 10 unregistered band 2s and one apprentice.”

A previous proposal from NHS commissioners would have seen it lose two beds, with the remainder used for palliative care, intravenous therapy and “discharge to assess”.

However, under a last-minute proposal from Norfolk County Council, the property will be leased to the local authority for £2m and turned into a re-enablement unit.

“Using the beds for re-ablement will still help reduce pressure on hospitals”

Anoop Dhesi

On Tuesday, the CCG voted to pass Benjamin Court to the council to provide short-term care to people deemed medically fit to leave hospital but who need further support before going home.

The council said it hoped the additional capacity of the unit would complement the home based re-ablement service that it already provides across Norfolk via adult social services.

Bill Borrett, chair of the Adult Social Services Committee at Norfolk County Council, said: “We care about people who have had a stay in hospital and we understand that most of them want to be able to return home and live independently for as long as possible.

“Our re-ablement services allow that to happen by helping those who need some extra support for a short period of time,” he added.

But the health service trust cautioned that, while the beds had been saved, the council was looking to bring in its own staff, with “implications” for staff currently employed there.

Norfolk Health and Care NHS Trust

Nurse jobs at risk as role of Norfolk community unit changes

Benjamin Court

Lorrayne Barrett, director of integrated care for Norfolk Community Health and Care, said: “While we are confident that this decision is the best way forward for the local community, reducing pressure on hospital beds, we are aware that this will have implications for our staff.”

She highlighted that the trust was looking at ways of keeping staff employed in its other services.

“This is a highly experienced, skilled and committed staff group and we are continuing to support and consult with them to provide clarity during this prolonged period of uncertainty,” she said.

“We will work hard in partnership with them to retain them in the local health and social care services,” she added.

Meanwhile, the council said it was looking to implement a solution in time for winter. It added that a consultation period of up to 45 days may be needed to discuss options with staff at the unit.

North Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group held a public consultation on the future of Benjamin Court, from 19 June to 11 September, citing reduced demand for community hospital beds.

The consultation document noted that, until recently, the CCG commissioned 73 intermediate care beds across four units in North Norfolk, compared to an average of 60 among similar CCGs.

Norfolk Health and Care NHS Trust

Nurse jobs at risk as role of Norfolk community unit changes

Lorrayne Barrett

“In comparison to 10 other CCGs in England most closely related to the demographics of North Norfolk, we have more intermediate care beds than most,” stated the document.

It added: “Evidence from our neighbouring CCGs has also suggested we do not need so many beds with neither Norwich CCG, South Norfolk CCG nor West Norfolk CCG having as many beds in their area.

North Norfolk CCG also noted that during an audit period, occupancy in Benjamin Court beds ran between 83%-94%, and at 91% across all four units.

As a result, the CCG proposed retaining two intermediate care units, while reducing capacity or changing the use of Benjamin Court and also Cranmer House in Fakenham.

In a separate move, 13 beds at Cranmer House have been transferred to West Norfolk CCG, which already commissioned six beds at the unit.

Dr Anoop Dhesi, chair of North Norfolk CCG, said: “Our public consultation allowed us to listen to the thoughts and views of the public and we are very grateful to all those who responded and gave us such valuable insights.

“We are very pleased that a further idea was proposed by our colleagues at Norfolk County Council,” he said. “Using the beds for re-ablement will still help reduce pressure on hospitals and dovetail with our supported care service.”

Also on the Benjamin Court site is a “housing with care” scheme, run by private firm NorseCare. It supports up to 30 people who are tenants of their own flats and is currently rated “good” by the Care Quality Commission.

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