Fresh worry over Mineral Water Hospital unit closure plans
Health watchdogs have added their concern to worries over the closure of a specialist service for people with head injuries in Bath.
The Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases is axing its neurological rehabilitation service from the end of March in an attempt to balance its books.
But the decision has concerned Bath and North East Somerset Council and the historic city centre hospital’s own governors - an advisory group of patients and community representatives.
At a meeting of the council’s Wellbeing Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel, an update was given on the future of the hospital, which is known as the Min, and which is preparing to merge with the Royal United Hospital.
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The board that runs the Min decided to stop providing the neurological rehabilitation service after its income fell by 50 per cent in the past two years, in a move that has already concerned the United Kingdom Acquired Brain Injury Forum.
Panel chair Councillor Vic Pritchard (Con, Chew Valley South) said: “I have never had a criticism of The Min, it is critical in what it does.
“People go out of their way to praise it. I think it is very unfortunate that it will be losing the neurological rehabilitation service, it is a vital service.”
The panel has requested another meeting to discuss the closure of the service in more detail.
The meeting was presented with a statement from the hospital’s governors, who say urgent action is needed to ensure that patients are not left high and dry.
Service development and delivery sub-committee chair Peter Miles said: “We believe that everything possible must be done to ensure continuing care for these patients at the necessary level, and urge all parties to agree a way to make this happen, for example by supporting the RNHRD unit in its present form, at least until all patients are transferred successfully to appropriate alternative service providers.”
He said the nearest equivalent service was in Oxford and added: “The closure of the Bath service will deprive the whole South West of a specialist high-intensity neuro-rehabilitation facility, and will significantly reduce the national resource for training new doctors and therapists, to deliver both the next generation of experts to provide this service, and to give experience and advice to clinicians receiving these patients when they return to their home community.
“Governors urge all relevant agencies, local, regional and national, to recognise this situation, and give full consideration to the future of this vulnerable group of patients and their families.”
The neurological rehabilitation service, which offers specialist assessment and rehabilitation to people aged 16 and over who have had a brain injury as a result of an accident or illness, will be stopped from March 31.
Min chief executive Kirsty Matthews said it had been a difficult decision to make.
She said: “We are having to make some difficult decisions as the Min is facing some significant financial challenges.
“We are losing at least £10,000 a day.
“Demand has changed over the past 18 months, it has fallen which has had an impact on our finances.
“We are a small organisation, the smallest foundation trust in the country.
“The Min is not viable as a stand alone organisation.”