Campaigners' joy at hospitals' reprieve

CAMPAIGNERS last night spoke of their delight after controversial plans to close and sell off two community hospitals in a Suffolk market town were put on hold.

CAMPAIGNERS last night spoke of their delight after controversial plans to close and sell off two community hospitals in a Suffolk market town were put on hold.

Suffolk's health scrutiny committee yesterday agreed to refer the Sudbury proposals for Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt to decide, citing a lack of consultation and claiming patients' needs could suffer.

Campaigners in the town had claimed they were being “sacrificed” to ease the PCT's financial crisis and that the plans were a “panic reaction” - something constantly denied by PCT bosses.

Peter Clifford, chairman of the Walnuttree Hospital Action Committee, said: “I am sure campaigners in Sudbury will be more than satisfied with this sensible reaction.


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“This decision will give us more time to look at alternative measures and we want to open up dialogue with the PCT to try and take this forward.”

In addition to increasing staff levels and services in Newmarket, the PCT proposals include creating a “healthcare hub” in Sudbury - with a healthcare team, increased care in the community and some beds in either a hospital or residential care setting.

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But the plans were widely condemned at yesterday's packed scrutiny committee with campaigners and community leaders from both towns addressing the meeting.

South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo said: “In all my 24 years as a MP, no one issue has completely united a community like this.

“The PCT's consultation process has been a sham and the views of people most affected by the cuts in the Sudbury area have been ignored.”

But the reprieve for health services in Sudbury has had a knock-on effect on campaigners in Newmarket after plans to increase staff and services at the hospital were temporarily blocked - despite winning universal approval.

Health bosses said last night their proposed model of care would be applied to the whole of west Suffolk - intrinsically linking services in both towns.

The decision by the scrutiny committee was met with a mixed response - and urgent calls for a quick response from Mrs Hewitt.

Newmarket mayor and health forum member Warwick Hirst said: “Obviously this decision will have an impact on health services in our town and we would urge the scrutiny committee to ask for a swift response.”

Speaking after the meeting, PCT chief executive Carol Taylor-Brown said: “This is about a whole system change, not about localities, and that is why we cannot take any plans further in Newmarket until there is a decision in Sudbury.

“This is very disappointing and it also affects services in Bury St Edmunds and Haverhill. We have just tried to balance peoples' needs and it is utter nonsense to suggest we were bullying people into making a decision.”

dave.gooderham@eadt.co.uk

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