Health bosses have been slammed after a hospital ward, which cared for ‘frail older people’ in Wycombe, was closed with care being transferred back into the community.

Wycombe Hospital’s Ward 5B has been closed following a pilot scheme, a move that has been heavily criticised by health campaigners who said they feared more “cost cutting measures” were “on the horizon”.

The pilot was proposed after it was found that 100 per cent of patients admitted to the ward were “medically fit” to leave hospital.

County councillor Julia Wassell, who sits on the health scrutiny committee panel, said she was “concerned” it had closed to older people “without the project being scrutinised at the Health and Adult Social Care committee”.

She said: “We have an ageing population and there are issues with delayed discharges and more demand on A&E than ever before.

“In these circumstances it would be preferable to have conducted the pilot project in the months of the highest demand on services, in the winter and spring.”

However she conceded that having treatment at home was a good model “in theory”, but added that for older residents it would “clearly be more convenient to have rehab at 5B closer to GPs, services and informal and formal care networks”.

She added: “This is a major change for Wycombe’s older residents and I have asked for it to be referred to the Secretary of State, as the closure proposal was not scrutinised.”

Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust said the ward is now being used as part of the planned expansion of the hospital’s stroke services, after the acute stroke unit at Wexham Park Hospital in Slough closed at the end of last year.

Campaigner Ozma Hafiz said she was “not surprised” the ward was not reopening, adding: “The fact that the closure of this ward wasn't mentioned during the ‘Community Hub’ meetings last year spoke volumes as this was a key time for the Trust and CCGs to discuss and maybe even celebrate the upcoming ‘pilot’.

“The findings from the pilot should be published fully and independently scrutinised.”

Health bosses said they had identified that patients on the ward were spending an average of an extra 24 days in hospital while waiting for the “right support” in the community, and by “transferring the resource”, they have been able to develop a model that allows patients to recover in their own homes or in a care home.

A trust spokesman said: “We have evaluated the pilot and found that the feedback from patients was overwhelmingly positive.

“We have seen an increase in the number of patients we have been able to keep well and out of hospital, as well as reducing the length of stay for other patients who were already in hospital.

“Staff who were previously working on Ward 5B have been successfully relocated to other roles within the trust.

“As a result of the evaluation, we have decided not to transfer care back to Ward 5B and instead continue to develop new models of care for people in the community.”