Cutbacks rob patients of vital lifeline

A FORMER nurse now suffering from Parkinson's Disease has strongly criticised hospital bosses for axing specialist posts that provide a “vital lifeline” for housebound patients.

A FORMER nurse now suffering from Parkinson's Disease has strongly criticised hospital bosses for axing specialist posts that provide a “vital lifeline” for housebound patients.

Jenny Mitchell, 65, was diagnosed with the degenerative brain disorder in 1989 and until recently was regularly visited at her Kesgrave home by specialist nurse Helen Williams.

However because of money saving measures at Ipswich Hospital the service has now stopped and Mrs Mitchell, who worked as a sexual health advisor at Heath Road, has lost “a vital lifeline”.

She has challenged the trust's bosses to spend a day with her to witness first hand how the cuts are affecting frontline services and hitting the most vulnerable patients the hardest.

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Mrs Mitchell, a member of the Ipswich and East Suffolk branch of the Parkinson's Disease Society, said: “When I was first diagnosed I was very frightened. I was only 45 and at that time there was no one to help me.

“That's where Helen has been so amazing. She's been visiting me since she started and it's been tremendous just to have someone to talk to and who you can trust.

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“She's always willing to step into a crisis and I'm really concerned about who will undertake her role in the future.

“She helps not only physically but emotionally as well. I had to give up driving last year and went through a bout of depression but Helen was there to offer advice and help me through.

“But it's not just about me. Last week we lost another member of our local branch and when this happens Helen would usually go around and comfort the widow. But who will do that now? We will try our best but there is only so much we can do.”

Ipswich Hospital is currently trying to clear multi-million pound debts and a range of cost saving measures have been put in place - which include axing some of their specialist nursing roles as part of plans to cut 357 jobs and close four operating theatres.

Mrs Mitchell, who is now cared for by her three grown-up children, said she fears for those who live alone and are in a more vulnerable position than herself.

“I am lucky because I have a very caring and supportive family, but there are those who don't,” she said. “For them Helen was a vital lifeline who could arrange appointments with doctors and sort out medication.

“I know several people who are very upset because it is an added worry that they just don't need. The local Parkinson's branch now has a community support worker and she is trying her best but we can only afford her for 15 hours a week and she is not a trained nurse.

“The administrators at Ipswich Hospital just don't seem to care. There are too many managers and men with clipboards who in my view don't seem to have a clue about what's happening on the frontline.

“I would love to have a meeting with the people who make these decisions or tell the chief executive to come and spend a day with me so I can show him what it's all about.

“The condition is so changeable - one minute you can be walking around fine and the next you can be like a dummy and can't do anything - but they don't see that.”

A spokesperson for Ipswich Hospital said the trust was currently carrying out a specialist nurse review and that so far no decisions had been made on what posts would be affected.

“We recognise the tremendous work specialist nurses provide,” she said. “In our trust we have around 100 nurse specialists and that's much higher than other comparable hospitals.

“We have had to scrutinise every aspect of what we do in light of our financial challenge and we have had to look and see if this is the sort of thing an acute hospital should be providing or if it can be provided by another organisation.

“However for the time being it should be business as usual and the service should not be affected because no decisions have been made.”

§ A degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that affects the control of muscles.

§ It occurs when certain nerve cells (neurons) in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra die or become impaired.

§ Normally, these cells produce a vital chemical known as dopamine, which allows smooth, coordinated function of the body's muscles and movement.

§ Primary symptoms include tremors, stiffness, slowness of moving and difficulty with balance.

§ Secondary symptoms include small, cramped handwriting, stiff facial expression, muffled speech and depression.

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