Marlow Community Hospital’s inpatient beds will not be used while healthcare bosses trial a new six-month “community hub” pilot – a move that campaigners have branded “devastating.”

From April, Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust plans to invest £1 million in a bid to bring care closer to people’s homes and will be launching community hubs at Marlow’s hospital in Victoria Road, and Thame Hospital following a public consultation.

During the pilot, clinicians will not use the 20 inpatient beds at Marlow and Thame hospitals - instead the space will be used to run “frailty assessment clinics” which bosses say will benefit 350 older people.

Patients who would otherwise stay in the hospital will instead be treated at home where possible, or arrangements will be made for them to be admitted elsewhere, possibly in care homes.

Healthcare campaigner, Ozma Hafiz, said she is “devastated” at the news in the wake of Wycombe Hospital losing Ward 5B - which cared for frail elderly people until it was closed earlier this year - and has now written to MP Dominic Grieve.

She said: “The ‘community hub’ sessions were engaged with fully and not once did we call for or consent to the closure of more beds.

“[Residents] darn well deserve to use overnight beds at their local community hospital should the need arise. This essential respite care should be available to residents.”

At a Bucks County Council Health and Adult Social Care Select Committee last month, healthcare bosses confirmed that elderly people from High Wycombe who would have used Ward 5B will be able to use Marlow instead – a move praised by county councillor Julia Wassell, who fiercely opposed the closure of the Wycombe Hospital ward.  

The Trust has also assured worried residents that the pilot will double the number of outpatient appointments offered at some community hospitals, provide short-term support packages to bridge the gap between home and hospital to over 3000 people and reduce hospital admissions.

They say integrated teams, including nurses, therapists and social workers linking with GPs and practice nurses, will provide 24/7 cover to manage those patients identified as needing the greatest health and care support, while short-term packages of support will be offered in people’s own homes for up to six weeks.

Dr Tina Kenny, medical director at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “We want to make health and care services safe, sustainable and able to meet the future needs of our local population.

“We have consistently heard that people want their care delivered out of hospital and in local communities. We also know that people want to avoid unnecessary travel, better coordination between organisations and be given the support to manage their own health and wellbeing. By expanding the support available to people in the community, as these schemes do, we can keep our patients healthy, independent and avoid an unwanted stay in hospital.

“We will monitor how well things work over the next six months and use our learning to inform our final plans, with a view to a further expansion of the scheme to other parts of the county.”