Walsall Manor Hospital-based arthritis unit set for the axe
A service helping patients with arthritis and joint pain looks set to be axed from Walsall Manor Hospital because it is 'unsustainable', according to a report.
The borough's Rheumatology service, which is run by Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, may close due to its size – with plans being drawn up to have a service covering the whole of the Black Country.
Health bosses behind the Black Country's Strategic Transformation Plan (STP), have said it is difficult to recruit and keep consultant rheumatologists for the service.
It is currently made up of two consultants and clinical nurse specialists. Arthritis and back pain are among the conditions treated.
The STP states: "We already have well advanced discussions regarding the Rheumatology service, which is unsustainable in Walsall due to the small size of the service making recruitment and retention of consultant rheumatologists really difficult.
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"As a result of our network approach, we have collectively made available short-term resources to sustain the service, and have been successful in recruiting three consultants who will join later this year.
"This will lead to a reduction in locum spend in the second half of the year.
"Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust already provides rheumatology services for a large part of Staffordshire as well as Wolverhampton."
Councillor Ian Robertson, Walsall Council's health boss, said he thought the change to a Black Country-led service 'makes sense'.
He added: "I think when you have a specialist service it is easier to recruit if you can tell them you will be looking after a series of hospitals rather than just one.
"It makes sense to have a large group sharing some specialist services to save money."
The service in Walsall is offered Monday to Friday at the Manor and the Outpatient and Day Case Centre.
It offers specialist clinics, including early arthritis, and a range of treatments, including infusions and injections.
The rheumatology team has strong links with primary care providers and services such as the falls prevention programme based at Dartmouth House in the town.
The team also provides an expert patient programme, which can be accessed by people with long-term conditions, and works alongside voluntary services.