D-Day for region's health services

THE detail of multi-million pound cutbacks in east Suffolk's health service will be considered by bosses today for the first time.The joint board of Suffolk East Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) will look at the proposals to make major savings – which include closing and selling off two community hospitals – and bring the healthcare's finances closer to balance.

THE detail of multi-million pound cutbacks in east Suffolk's health service will be considered by bosses today for the first time.

The joint board of Suffolk East Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) will look at the proposals to make major savings - which include closing and selling off two community hospitals - and bring the healthcare's finances closer to balance.

The controversial cash-saving scheme has caused a tide of protest and a demonstration is expected outside the meeting.

Although no decisions will be made today, residents said it would be the first time the board members would directly feel the full impact of the proposals and anticipated it would give them "pause for thought".


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Sheena Griffiths, chairman of the Aldeburgh and District Community Hospital League of Friends, said she hoped the board members would be able to challenge the figures.

She added: "I know this is a national problem and we are not the only ones in this situation but surely the board must see that the NHS is going to be crippled if this sort of thing is allowed to be introduced.

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"I hope this meeting gives them pause for thought before they get the final result of this consultation process."

The plans include the sale of the Bartlet Hospital, in Felixstowe, and the Hartismere Hospital, in Eye - with £3million from each site expected to go into the money pot.

The two facilities could be put on the market as soon as February, with axed services at the two hospitals, and at Aldeburgh Hospital, counted on to save £4.8m.

In a move that is line with national policy and guidelines to bring care closer to people's homes, health bosses are envisaging an investment of £2.8m in community services to replace the hospitals, representing a saving of £2m on providing services in the area.

Redundancy costs are expected to reach £1.8m, but expected savings of a further £3.2m are planned by reducing "avoidable" admissions to acute hospitals, such as Ipswich.

Plans to consolidate services at the Felixstowe General Hospital, including the addition of up to 14 inpatient beds, additional outpatient clinics and a £730,000 refurbishment project, have also been outlined.

Savings of £325,000 are earmarked in Aldeburgh by reducing the number of beds at the town's hospital to 20 or less, which will be used for "step-up" purposes.

But Mrs Griffiths said the proposals would "ruin" the excellent service at Aldeburgh Hospital and put the whole health infrastructure under threat.

She said: "Changing for the Better must be a very ironic title for the consultation. It is obviously based not on clinical or customer needs but driven by a requirement to balance their books.

"My experience of management makes me feel that this is the most abject running of any organisation that I have come across."

In a crippling financial situation across the county health trusts are jointly battling with debts of more than £70m.

Ipswich Hospital is set to lose 10% of its beds in the cutbacks, while job losses and ward closures are also expected at West Suffolk Hospital, in Bury St Edmunds.

Community hospitals in Sudbury and Newmarket are facing closure, while other day hospitals and mental health units are also under threat.

Lorene Baker, member of the Ipswich Hospital Patient and Public Involvement forum, said yesterday : "There is a lot of anger about. I attended another meeting and we were trying to look at the future but it looks pretty bleak.

"The only way we can complain is en masse. It is a catch 22 situation. All we can do is keep putting pressure on them. I think they are listening but I don't think they are acting on it.

"A lot of this has come from the Government. The Government is to blame. We have got to get the Government to admit that there are problems. But how much talking can you do? It's going to be very dangerous."

A spokesman for the Suffolk East PCTs said of the meeting, which is taking place at the Kesgrave War Memorial Community Centre at 10.15am: "There will be no decisions made about the consultation proposals.

"The board members will be considering, for information, a report about the proposed model of care and the financial implications.

"That report is available to the public. We are continuing to receive responses to the public consultation; there are a large number of them.

"We welcome as many responses as people can give and they will be considered after the consultation process."

The consultation process is due to be completed by the end of November, with an informal opportunity for people to have their say during that month.

Decisions are expected to be made at a specially scheduled board meeting in December.

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