Closed today: The rehab hospital that should be at the cutting edge of NHS care

Gossoms End Community hospital, Berkhamsted : Closed today

Gossoms End Community hospital, Berkhamsted : Closed today


When my wife Margaret was struck down by a stroke on holiday and  lost her mobility one of the  redeeming features was that after her initial care in Truro she was transferred at our GP’s insistence to Gossoms End Community Hospital in our home town, Berkhamsted.

As a result of her stay there and later at the now closed  Holywell rehab unit at St Albans Hospital she has progressed in two years from help to get out of bed and living in a wheelchair through to the first stage of slow independent walking without any aids.

That is in no small part to the loving care at Gossoms End which led me to write a blog two years ago praising the work there.

At the time I said :

“What is particularly good is that some one has properly planned this facility so that stroke victims and people recovering from serious injuries can get proper physiotherapy and nursing care in a decent environment. The hospital unlike Watford, the main accident and emergency hospital for West Herts, is under no pressure to throw people out at the earliest opportunity. The cost of running it is much less than using a ward in acute hospital.

But the real key is that this is a nurse and physiotherapy led unit – with a weekly visit from a consultant and a doctor on call. The result is that the driving force  behind the care is to find the most suitable  rehab treatment for the individual patient.”

Alas that is no more. The unit closed  today because the Herts Community Health Trust  which runs it has overspent on agency staff because they can’t get full-time staff. It has faced criticism over staffing levels at other hospitals. Staff have been transferred elsewhere.

If you read the latest board minutes you see a trust that is struggling to provide services across Hertfordshire It is short of staff in key areas, facing an emergency financial crisis and failing in its ambition to become an independent foundation trust. Indeed it can only achieve the latter as far as I can see by slashing services so it can become profitable. Most of the key issues at the board meeting have a red or amber tag – meaning they are facing a disaster unless they slash costs in four weeks by closing down every possible service.

This local example to my mind illustrates the lie by our national politicians particularly by Jeremy Hunt, the health  secretary – about the state of the NHS. They trip out figures boasting about how much extra money there is. They haven’t a clue about integrated planning. They don’t know  and  don’t care how one policy – high house prices in Hertfordshire probably contributes to difficulties in recruiting staff -impacts on another. They are incapable of joining anything up – silo politicians.

In the meantime they talk about  so-called government policy ” care in the community” or ” no care in the community” as I prefer to call it. This is just an excuse to close down facilities and dump the sick ,ill, disabled and the insane on their families knowing that taxpayers don’t have to pay out. And if they haven’t any family, well, they will probably fall over and die and that will be a saving on the pensions bill.

To my mind closure of such facilities is short sighted. It means they only half rehabilitate people, failing to draw out their full potential and not wishing to acknowledge that new medical research shows that stroke victims  continue to improve for a much longer period than people thought. We are lucky that we can still afford to pay for Margaret to have private physiotherapy. I notice the lack in improvements among those who can’t.

I realise we have been lucky but I fear for anybody who has the misfortune to have a stroke in Hertfordshire today. Don’t expect the board members of Hertfordshire Community Health trust to do much about it.

12 thoughts on “Closed today: The rehab hospital that should be at the cutting edge of NHS care

  1. I have used Gossoms End for out-patient services and several years ago it really helped my mother when she moved there from Hemel hospital after breaking her hip.
    But I think David is wrong to blame the Board. They have to cope with the Government restrictions on pay increases for NHS staff which makes it more attractive for them to go and work agencies and then go back to hospitals on an agency basis.


  2. Pingback: Closed today: The rehab hospital that should be at the cutting edge of NHS care | David Hencke | sdbast

  3. Dear David,

    We have read your blog which makes many interesting points. However, it does contain a series of inaccuracies which we would like to correct.

    It’s fantastic to hear that your wife had a great experience while at Gossoms End – as we hope all our patients have – and that she continues to make a good recovery.

    While the Trust is facing a challenge to recruit to some areas it is incorrect to say this is the picture across all our services. HCT, like all NHS Trusts is having to deal with the challenges of increasing demand and expectations with small budget increases. Our organisation is a well performing Trust. Over recent years we have delivered the surpluses required of us. The surplus required this year has been increased by the Trust Development Agency and we are doing all we can to meet the target extended by £1 million. We have an obligation to use public money efficiently and we work hard to do so.

    Our Board papers do focus on risks. That is what we are required to do by our regulators to ensure we provide safe, effective, responsive services. If the papers are read thoroughly you obtain a more balanced picture, which shows that our staff do a fantastic job the vast majority of the time. We think it is instructive that we receive 64 compliments for every complaint we receive. The feedback from people who use our services is very good, reflecting the commitment of the people who work for HCT.

    To say the Trust is ‘facing a disaster unless they slash costs in four weeks by closing down every possible service’ is at best incorrect and at worse misleading, which could result in our patients and service users, many of whom are the most vulnerable in our community, becoming unnecessarily concerned and anxious. It is not true.

    Your blog also refers to our Holywell Ward and the fact it closed after your wife received great care there. A review of local stroke patients in 2013 found that they were often dispersed across the area, staying in non-specialist units. Because of this the six rehabilitation beds at Holywell Ward were relocated to a new dedicated specialist neurological and stroke rehabilitation unit with 16 beds. The results show stroke patients spend significantly less time in hospital before being discharged to our specialist rehabilitation unit.

    Finally, we would like to offer you the opportunity to visit the new Holywell Unit and attend our board meetings, which are always held in public, so you can gain a greater understanding of the Trust’s achievements and challenges.

    The HCT team


  4. disgraceful david. i sincerely hope mrs H gets all the services she needs. all the best for christmas and new year, and thank you for your intelligent imput.xx


  5. Just found this blog so thought I would have a say as I live in St Albans and a stroke at the back end of 2014. The first responder was with me in 10 minutes and the ambulance 15 minutes later. With St Albans having no stroke facility where I ended up was dependant on the ambulance base (Watford or Luton). I have to say Luton was very good from start to finish, and my major problem on release was speech. EDS came from Watford and on-going speech therapy is progressing well. My fear for speech and language therapy in this area is that as its not a sexy in your face specialism, it will be processed and financially evolved into a “one therapy suits all” and end up as a 6 weeks and your cured attitude from the bean counters. I really hope I am wrong but will anybody disagree with me?


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