Bosses pledge to fight hospital plans

HEALTH bosses in west Suffolk have pledged to fight plans to create a regional “super hospital” - but admitted a controversial merger will be considered.

HEALTH bosses in west Suffolk have pledged to fight plans to create a regional “super hospital” - but admitted a controversial merger will be considered.

The EADT exclusively revealed on Saturday that the West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust is looking at a possible twinning with Addenbrooke's in Cambridge.

The move led to fears over the long-term future of one of Suffolk's biggest hospitals from leading consultants, who said they had “grave concerns” about any merger.

But the trust's chief executive Chris Bown yesterday moved to reassure staff at the Bury St Edmunds' hospital, as senior management embark on a new corporate strategy.

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In a briefing to staff, Mr Bown said: “I would like to make it clear that there are no plans whatsoever to close West Suffolk Hospital.

“This is not on the trust board, Strategic Health Authority, Suffolk West Primary Care Trust, Cambridge University NHS Trust or anyone else's agenda.

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“The aim of this review is to secure the continuation of clinical services for the local population of west Suffolk on the West Suffolk Hospital site.

“It is important not to confuse merger with hospital closure. Merger is an organisational model and in our case not one that means the centralisation of all services on one site, like Cambridge.

“This is not an option the board would support.”

It is thought that the merger option could help the cash-strapped hospital trust stave off a massive £20 million debt.

Senior doctor John Urquhart, a consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care, said his colleagues were “desperately worried” about the current situation.

“We want to find a way out of this but we have the greatest reservations about any merger proposals,” he said.

“If this happens, I think there is a very real threat to the hospital as it would not be an equal relationship.

“We have looked at the closure plans to hospitals in Sudbury and we fear we could become Cambridge's own Sudbury.”

Mr Urquhart's concerns were backed by patients and union representatives, who vowed to fight the merger plans if they threw the hospital's future into doubt.

But Mr Bown said: “Alongside Suffolk West PCT, it is our duty to ensure that high quality clinical services can be provided for local people which are financially sustainable.

“To meet this aim the trust board is considering a number of options, including merger options, to ensure a strong future for the hospital.

“We are all aware that the challenges we face, particularly in relation to financial viability, are of great concern to the public and staff, including our consultant medical staff.

“This is why we must be open minded in considering the future so that our plans are in the best interests of patients, regardless of organisational structure or politics, historical relationships and traditional patterns of care.

“This is why we are considering all options - our thinking however is still at an early stage and no decision has been made.”

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