I have read, with considerable interest and concern, your articles on the restoration of beds at Portland Hospital. A wonderful idea, but…
As a doctor who was heavily involved in the acquisition of the hospital as a GP/rehabilitation/community hospital in the first place many years ago, the theory is spot on. Tragically, Portland is a symptom of a much larger and broader problem that affects the entire NHS: we are not alone.
Covid has been blamed, but the decision to close Portland Hospital was made before Covid hit. I was at the public meeting at All Saints Church a few years ago when it was explained, unfortunately very clearly, that we did not have the staff to run the hospital at the time and that is why it was closing. Some staff members have also privately informed me that the nursing cover at that stage was stretched well beyond safe limits. Our patients deserve better than that.
When Portland Group Practice, as it was called, took over management of the unit, we had seven doctors and many nurses doing the actual practical work, and IMHO the system worked very well: we were able to admit our own patients for their treatment, rehabilitate our patients from the larger local acute care hospitals, etc. exactly the way a GP unit is conceived. In fact, we manage five rooms, but the situation has now changed.
I’d love for someone to tell me I’m wrong, but I don’t think there are seven doctors available in Portland right now to do general medicine and run the hospital, nor are there any nurses available locally. It is enough to read the national press to see the difficulties that doctors are having in trying to cope with the demand, and that patients are experiencing in trying to receive care. It is the system that is wrong, not the staff. There is simply too much demand for not enough resources.
I have been informed that tens of thousands of doctors AND NURSES are missing in this country, with many more leaving in the next five years, so in South Dorset we are simply repeating the problem we have nationally. One simply cannot safely run a community/medical hospital without a sufficient number of nurses and doctors.
Perhaps more importantly, there is another problem that no one seems to be mentioning. It takes seven years to train a doctor (and three more to give formal GP training), and three to four years to train a nurse to registration/qualification level. This problem will NOT be solved tomorrow, or even next week; accompanies us until the middle or end of this decade. Whoever can produce all these doctors and nurses in the next few months will become a national hero and save the Health Service, but that’s not realistic.
What we need is a national body of experienced apolitical (or multi-political) people, who can look at the current situation as a whole and come up with some viable, realistic and economically acceptable solutions. Until that happens, A&E departments will be overflowing with patients who should be seen by their GPs, convalescent patients will be stuck in hospital because they have nowhere to go, operations will be canceled because emergencies need priority, doctors and nurses will give, patients will die, and frustrated people will continue to write to the Eco in the hope of finding a solution.
Dr Keith Barnard-Jones