HEALTH chiefs insist the closure of a complex care ward at the Royal Bolton Hospital will not jeopardise patient safety.

28 hospital beds were shut this month as part of a move to save £800,000 and speed up the assessment and discharge of patients.

Bosses at the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust say they want to reassure critics the closure is “clinician led” and will improve patient care.

Dr Jackie Bene, chief executive of the Trust, told the board of directors yesterday: “We want to reiterate to anyone who might be concerned about the closure of B3, this was a two-part process.

“One was closing down the winter ward. It was only kept open for longer than usual because of the extra pressures in April.

“The other beds were safely closed because of the practices implemented since January.”

The trust says it has invested some of savings into the frailty unit on B1 ward as well as a new rapid response service for patients with mental health needs.

Geriatric specialists and therapists are now on hand on the frailty unit — the next stop after A&E — to speed up the assessment process.

Dr Bene added: “This is not about discharging people when they are not ready. We have ramped up the therapy teams, our geriatric care and reduced our rate of C-Difficile by almost 50 per cent in the last year.

“This means we have not needed those extra beds when other wards are shut down.

“I think those who remain concerned about bed closures should know that this has happened with the agreement of clinicians and that this is safe. It is clinician led.”

B3 ward now sits empty and will be used as a “flex ward” during busy periods. Dr Bene told the board that no jobs have been lost and former B3 staff have instead been deployed to different parts of the hospital.

“By moving our staff to other wards, it means we will have to use less bank and agency staff — which will be another saving,” she said.

More ward closures are expected later this year as part of the government’s plan to downsize hospitals and provide more care in the community.

The NHS Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will discuss the closures at their board meeting today.