A NINETY-page report accounting for the closure of Fordingbridge’s Ford Ward is remaining concealed from the public by NHS bosses.

However, a summary of the findings – following investigations about patient care at Fordingbridge Hospital – has been released, accusing nurses of “unacceptable behaviour” and citing a “culture of insensitivity”.

Sue Harriman, the trust’s director of clinical excellence, said: “The enquiry confirmed unacceptable behaviour towards patients by individual staff.

“A culture of insensitivity to the needs and rights of patients appears to have developed within a small group of staff which tolerated and exacerbated such behaviour.

“Due to the small size and low staff turnover of the hospital, this group had become sufficiently entrenched to discourage criticism or whistle blowing by other staff, and to reassert its influence.”

Hampshire Community Health Care/Care Services has “taken appropriate disciplinary action against staff implicated in the complaints”.

In March, July and again in October 2007 more complaints were made about the poor standards of care and inappropriate attitudes and behaviour of staff.

The ward was closed in October 2007 and remained shut until July 2008 while an investigation was being carried out.

An independent report was carried out by specialist consultants Verita, which made 28 recommendations which have now been implemented.

At the time of the closure, many people feared that it was just a way to shut the hospital entirely in a bid to save money.

Ann Hickman, chairman of the Friends of Fordingbridge Hospital, still believes that this had been the intention.

She is a regular volunteer on Ford Ward and said: “The findings seem to be a little bit harsh.

“With any organisation you always get complaints but I never saw anything that I thought was wrong.”

At last week’s meeting in Damerham, held by Hampshire Primary Care Trust board members, Fordingbridge residents were able to air their grievances about the ten-month closure of Ford Ward.

Later on in the meeting, following criticism from the floor, board members said they were sorry that their predecessors on the New Forest PCT had not done better in monitoring what was going on in Ford Ward.

The biggest apology was to the vast majority of nursing staff at the hospital who had provided superb levels of care.

Human resources director Sandra Grant agreed that the temporary closure “had impacted very badly” on staff, and Katrina Percy, managing director of provider organisations, said: “I would personally like to apologise to some of the staff who have been very badly affected.”

More than 40 people attended the meeting, which heard that several members of the New Forest PCT board had resigned since the closure, and that a completely new Hampshire board has now been put in place.