Council opposes health cutbacks

A DISTRICT council has expressed its opposition to plans to close scores of hospital beds across west Suffolk, claiming local health care could be compromised.

A DISTRICT council has expressed its opposition to plans to close scores of hospital beds across west Suffolk, claiming local health care could be compromised.

Members of Babergh District Council's overview and scrutiny committee have outlined a set of “grave concerns” in response to Suffolk West Primary Care Trust's plans.

Their views, which still need to be ratified by the council's political leaders' group, will be sent to the PCT in response to its consultation document Modernising Healthcare in West Suffolk and also to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

The document outlines swingeing cutbacks to health services in west Suffolk with the closure-threatened Walnuttree Hospital in Sudbury losing 32 beds and more than 60 beds axed at Newmarket Hospital and West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds.

But the PCT have come under fire from council members who said they had “significant fears” and called for “very careful management” in handling the proposals.

Chris Hunt, committee chairman, said: “We remain concerned over both the pace and direction of the proposed changes to local health care provision.

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“In particular, we are deeply troubled about the impact on health care in Sudbury and the access to services that will be available to residents in our more rural areas. “

After the meeting, councillor Michael Miller, Babergh's representative on the Suffolk health overview and scrutiny committee, told the EADT: “Members have been aware for some time of the financial difficulty facing the PCT and hospital trusts.

“We are deeply concerned by the fact we are under-funded compared to other parts of the country and we are astounded the PCT has not done more to protest against this.

“We are very frustrated that public health service is going downhill and it appears we have no power to stop this. All we can do is protest to the PCT and the Secretary of State - but we can't force change.”

Mr Miller, who gave a presentation to members at yesterday's meeting, said he was particularly sympathetic to residents in Sudbury faced with losing the much-loved Walnuttree.

He said: “I think the Walnuttree does an excellent job for the people of Sudbury who have been promised a new health campus for ages, who have been promised inpatient beds but who are now faced with the progressive closure of their hospital.”

Part of the overview and scrutiny committee's response to the PCT reads: “The council supports any move to resolve financial problems arising from inefficiencies, inappropriate traditional methods of treatment or uncontrolled expenditure.

“However, achieving these aims should not be a justification for delivery of lesser healthcare services available within the district.”

The PCT has said it will bring the concerns of the district council to the trust's board during the formal consultation process.

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