Council to look at health cuts plan
By Jonathan BarnesPROPOSALS for the future of community hospitals in Suffolk are set to be scrutinised by county councillors.Debt-ridden primary care trusts across the county are planning to cut inpatient beds to clear multi-million-pound deficits.
By Jonathan Barnes
PROPOSALS for the future of community hospitals in Suffolk are set to be scrutinised by county councillors.
Debt-ridden primary care trusts across the county are planning to cut inpatient beds to clear multi-million-pound deficits.
Suffolk County Council's select committee on community hospitals will meet on September 5 to discuss the situation - and could put its concerns in writing to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt.
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Councillors from all parties have been recommended to question NHS trusts on their plans and hear evidence from independent experts and interested parties.
The proposals include closing hospitals in Sudbury, Eye and Newmarket and axing beds at hospitals in Felixstowe and Aldeburgh.
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Local campaigns have been launched against the closures, which are aimed at tackling a countywide debt of £47million - which must be paid back by the end of 2005-6.
Other cutbacks in acute hospitals and mental health services are also in the pipeline.
Primary care trusts in the west and east of the county are proposing to replace the axed beds with greater care in the community.
But officers have recommended the committee must be satisfied that NHS trusts have fully considered the practicability of their plans and the impact on the health and well-being of the people of Suffolk.
Other options open to councillors include visiting one or more of the affected hospitals or writing to the Health Secretary with their concerns.
Officers have also asked for further clarification about the “real” choices that patients will have after the changes, whether care in the community meets patients' needs, the realism of primary care trusts meeting their debts and whether the social care market could cope with the extra demands placed upon it.
Jane Hore, health scrutiny committee chairman, said: “I'm not going to pre-empt the outcome of the meeting - the action we take will be a committee decision.
“But things do tend to change very quickly in the NHS and they could change again before September 5.”