SERVICE REORGANISATION: Two community hospitals in Hertfordshire could close as early as June - with patients requiring intermediate care supported in their own homes or in care homes.

But the plans produced by NHS Hertfordshire have been criticised by Hertfordshire Community Trust. The trust - which provides services at Hitchen and Royston hospitals - said the PCTs’ intermediate care strategy had inadequate specifications for nursing and therapy input and did not recognise the intensive support that patients cared for at home would need.

A report to the community trust’s board said: “We wish to be more closely involved than we are currently.” It suggested the trust was being treated as “another contractor” rather than a member of the NHS family.

The two hospitals are fundamentally unsuitable for the delivery of healthcare, according to the board papers, and an early closure could avoid staffing problems in the meantime. Interim chief executive Derek Smith told the board that the continued safe operation of the hospital remained under close review by the trust’s executive.

Hertfordshire Community Trust has around 50 wholetime equivalent staff at the hospitals but is hoping they can be redeployed elsewhere to avoid redundancies. A decision on closure is expected to be made by NHS Hertfordshire at its next board meeting.

NHS Hertfordshire said:  “As part of the recent engagement process with stakeholders, we have talked to care home providers and the community trust to ensure that the new arrangements for bed-based intermediate care services provide modern high quality local care.

“‘Everyone will be focussed on making sure that the appropriate level of medical, nursing and therapy support, including staffing, are in place to meet the range of needs of the expected patient population.”