Campaigners bid to stop health shakeup

CAMPAIGNERS will today launch a last-ditch bid to stop health services being “sacrificed” under controversial plans to sell off two community hospitals.

CAMPAIGNERS will today launch a last-ditch bid to stop health services being “sacrificed” under controversial plans to sell off two community hospitals.

Proposals put forward by Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) would see Sudbury's St Leonard's and Walnuttree hospitals sold off and replaced by a “healthcare hub” which, the trust claims, would improve care.

The plans, which include increasing staff levels and services in Newmarket, will today go before Suffolk's Health Scrutiny Committee.

The committee will have to decide whether this latest scheme addresses previous concerns and whether to make recommendations to the PCT.

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Its decision will be one of “life or death” according to health campaigners who claim the proposals would destroy services in Sudbury and accuse the PCT of “misleading” the public, being “disingenuous” and of being “extraordinarily vague” in its suggestion of creating a “new facility” in Sudbury.

Michael Mandelstam, of the Walnuttree Hospital Action Committee (WHAC) argued the PCT's claims that what was on offer was a new model of care did not stack up.

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He claimed the proposals would increase pressure on West Suffolk Hospital and, with the community beds being planned for Newmarket, would not bring care closer to people's homes.

Mr Mandlestam, who will be among several campaigners to speak at today's meeting, said: “We welcome Newmarket being developed but it is inequitable that it will happen in Newmarket and not in Sudbury.

“The only concrete proposals are for the removal of services. The new facility they talk about is vague and, as they say themselves, is dependent on finances.

“Bearing in mind they are £35 million in deficit, that's saying they are not going to do it.”

If the scrutiny committee backed the PCT's proposals, Mr Mandelstam vowed WHAC would fight the plans “tooth and nail” adding: “It would be an absolute disaster - this is about health and lives.”

Francis Jackson, an outpatient at Walnuttree Hospital from Great Cornard, said: “I hope they consider the needs of everybody in the Sudbury area. I am very concerned, I don't know what will happen.”

West Suffolk MP Richard Spring said: “This is a hugely important meeting. What is hugely important is that we get the green light for the Newmarket proposals to go ahead.

“Their proposals for Newmarket are exactly what we campaigned for.”

South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo said the current proposals had worsened the morale of Sudbury and its surrounding villages adding: “It would be a terrible blow if the health scrutiny committee did not refer this to the Secretary of State for Health. There has been a complete failure to consult with the local community.”

A spokesman for the PCT said: “We are looking forward to discussing these plans at the meeting.”

The new proposals outlined by the Suffolk PCT at a glance:

At the centre of the revised plan for Sudbury is a local healthcare team of nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and generic workers, trained in both health and social care.

The team will work with people in their own homes, in a centre providing day and treatment services and with people who need care and rehabilitation in a local-bedded facility.

Inpatient facilities for intermediate care will be met through a six to eight-bed “hospital setting” - either within an existing residential care unit or the development of a new unit.

X-ray services in Sudbury have been deemed too costly and will be transferred to Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket.

St Leonard's Hospital, Sudbury, will close and be sold while the amount of beds at the town's Walnuttree Hospital will be halved with the savings invested in the new local healthcare team.

Once a new healthcare hub is up and running, the Walnuttree Hospital will be put up for sale.

Although details about Newmarket Hospital is more sketchy, the PCT have confirmed there will be some 14 to 16 community beds retained in the facility serving the whole of west Suffolk.

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