Diabetes care next to go from hospital?

DIABETES care at Ipswich Hospital is under threat in the latest body-blow to the hospital.

Rebecca Lefort

By Rebecca Lefort

health reporter>

DIABETES care at Ipswich Hospital is under threat in the latest body-blow to the hospital.

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The hospital's specialist diabetes centre has a reputation for excellence, but new plans to provide more care for the disease at a GP level means its future is uncertain, health campaigners have warned.

The news, which reflects a general push to provide more care in the community rather than in hospitals, comes as outrage continues to mount over plans to treat Suffolk's emergency heart attack patients in Norfolk, Cambridgeshire or Essex. A move which could cost Ipswich Hospital around �750,000 in lost revenue yearly.

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It also comes as the consultation into plans to scrap pancreatic cancer surgery at Ipswich continues and after head and neck cancer surgery was shifted to Norwich.

Changes to diabetes and heart attack care will also hit Bury St Edmunds' West Suffolk Hospital, which also has a highly regarded diabetes centre.

In Ipswich nearly a third of patients who are currently treated at the hospital's diabetes centre could be treated in the community instead, resulting in a drop of funding to the centre.

Cliff Oakley, chairman of the Ipswich and East Suffolk voluntary group of Diabetes UK, said there was widespread worry about the moves of NHS Suffolk, the primary care trust (PCT), to treat more diabetes patients outside of Ipswich Hospital, with GPs heavily involved.

Speaking as a patient he said: “It is a worry. I doubt it will be able to maintain a diabetes unit at the level it currently does.

“I know that staffing has already been cut back because progress to treating people in the community has already been made.

“The PCT won't want to pay additional money so if they are expanding GP services it will come from Ipswich Hospital's budget. That then has an effect on the ability of Ipswich to run a first rate diabetes centre. So as a patient I am concerned.”

Mr Oakley said he was also upset at the pressure NHS Suffolk had put on healthcare providers and diabetes experts in Suffolk to implement the changes.

And he added he was unconvinced that high-level GP services would provide the same standard of care as hospital units, which could lead to more complications for patients.

Fellow diabetes campaigner and patient, Olivia Posner, a founding member of SuffDIG, the Suffolk Diabetes Interest Group, said she was concerned about the impact of providing more care in the community on the West Suffolk Hospital's diabetes centre.

She added: “The elephant in the room is money. It is a very difficult time for the NHS these days but I do feel diabetes is an area that they should not try to take money away from.

“It they do stop investing in the top specialist services it may cost more money because people will not be picked up quickly enough and it might lead to more complications.

“GPs are under huge pressure because they are not specialists; they have to cover an enormous area of care and many conditions.

“I would not be at all happy to have my care come from my GP, great as my GP is.”

* What do you think of these plans? Do you or someone you know currently receive care for diabetes at Ipswich Hospital? If you would like to have your views heard contact the EADT on 01473 324736 or email news@eadt.co.uk.

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