£800m health boost for the region

By Katy EdwardsTHOUSANDS of extra nurses, hundreds more hospital consultants and additional GPs are being promised for East Anglia over the next three years.

By Katy Edwards

THOUSANDS of extra nurses, hundreds more hospital consultants and additional GPs are being promised for East Anglia over the next three years.

The huge increase in the number of health professionals is part of a new three-year vision of the region's health services.

A new Health Delivery Plan is being launched today by Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority, which will be underpinned by £800million of additional investment, taking its healthcare budget from £1.4billion in 2000 to £2.2bn in 2005/6.

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Under the plan there should be 2,000 more nurses, 300 extra consultants and 80 additional GPs across the three counties by 2006.

Of these, Suffolk - excluding the Waveney area - will get about 480 nurses, 75 consultants and about 25 GPs.

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Gill Offley, of the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Workforce Development Confederation, said the extra posts would be created by persuading existing staff to stay, recruiting from overseas and increasing the number of training posts for doctors in hospitals.

She added: “We are optimistic we can achieve this. Our hope for the future is that we will have sufficient staff in place, working in the right kind of roles that mean we can deliver services most effectively to patients when and where they are needed.”

The Health Delivery Plan also details a raft of reforms to reduce waiting times, relieve some of the burden on hospitals and improve “the patient experience”.

By 2007, four new treatment centres at West Suffolk, Ipswich, James Paget and Hinchingbrooke Hospitals should be carrying out “high demand” surgery, such as hip operations and cataract replacements.

By 2006, the maximum waiting time for an operation should be down to six months and to 13 weeks for an outpatient appointment.

Patients are also promised no-one should have to wait longer than four hours in accident and emergency departments by that time and patients diagnosed with cancer should start their treatment within one month of diagnosis.

The plan also aims to tackle inequalities in healthcare across the region and target threats to public health, such as obesity, diabetes and smoking.

It also asserts all NHS trusts in Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire will be Foundation Trusts, with the greater amount of autonomy that that entails, by 2006.

Peter Houghton, chief executive of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority, said: “Ideally, we want the NHS in our region to match the best that Europe has to offer.

“The NHS will change a great deal by 2006. No-one doubts that transforming the health service to meet the needs of future generations is absolutely essential.

“To do that we need to introduce new ways of working, invest in staff and their professional development, improve clinical care, as well as develop new facilities and integrate information technology into the NHS to expand its capacity and capability.”

The increase in NHS expenditure across the region is indicative of the Government's pledge in April last year to raise NHS spending by £40bn over five years, financed by a 1% rise in National Insurance contributions.

For more information about the Health Delivery Plan, log on to www.nscsha.nhs.uk.


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