Fears for patients over hospital threat

By Lisa CleverdonAN hour-long journey through seven villages costing £2.70 is the prospect facing patients who will be forced to travel up to 20 miles for hospital treatment if health service cutbacks are made.

By Lisa Cleverdon

AN hour-long journey through seven villages costing £2.70 is the prospect facing patients who will be forced to travel up to 20 miles for hospital treatment if health service cutbacks are made.

In an effort to slash mounting debts, Suffolk West Primary Care Trust has announced a controversial plan to close Walnuttree Hospital in Sudbury, which is a lifeline for many elderly people living in and around the town.

For pensioners like Joyce Potter, the closure could even mean medical attention is not sought because of the difficulties encountered in travelling to West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds.


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Tim Yeo, South Suffolk MP, took an active stand against the closure yesterday by making the journey from Sudbury to Bury St Edmunds with Mrs Potter, emphasising the need for Walnuttree Hospital to remain open.

Mrs Potter, 82, from Borley, was a patient of Walnuttree Hospital when she broke her hip three years ago.

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She said: “It is a lovely hospital and I am absolutely livid that it could be closed. I do not think any thought has been given to the people of Sudbury who rely on this hospital.”

The pensioner, who worked as a hospital radiographer until her retirement, was contacted by hospital campaigner Michael Mitchell to see whether she would take part in the journey from Sudbury bus station to the Bury St Edmunds hospital.

“Having worked in hospitals I fully understand the anxiety that some patients experience, and making this sort of journey would just add to their worries,” she said.

“Some people do not drive and might not be able to travel on a bus, so they are not left with many options.

“It is a long journey to have to make and it just seems totally unnecessary when there is already a perfectly good hospital on our doorsteps.”

The daily bus service picks up passengers from Sudbury, Long Melford, Acton, Great Waldingfield, Lavenham, Cockfield, Stanningfield, Sicklesmere, finally arriving outside the hospital 55 minutes later.

Mr Yeo said: “The idea behind this exercise has been to bring home to the people making this ludicrous proposal the problems it will cause for patients and their families if we no longer have Walnuttree.

“The journey to Bury and back was a lot more difficult that anyone had expected. There are so many pick-up points and some of the roads are very small and winding, which I could imaging proving very uncomfortable for some people.

“Once at the hospital, there is a five-minute walk from the bus stop to the actual front doors, which could prove very difficult for people with limited mobility.

“I think this exercise has been very useful and should give a lot of people some food for thought.

“The findings and observations will give campaigners more ammunition in the battle against the hospital closure, and I will now be taking what we have learnt to the hospital trust as part of the three-month consultation period.”

The public consultation, which was launched yesterday, gives the public the chance to have their say on the proposed closure, as well as a number of other proposals for community hospitals, immediate care, outpatient clinics, and mental health services.

Mike Stonard, trust chief executive, said: “This is about getting the views of members of the public so we can get a better understanding of their thoughts and concerns, so we can make more informed decisions on the future of our services.”

A copy of the full consultation document can be found at www.suffolkwest-pct.nhs.uk.

lisa.cleverdon@eadt.co.uk

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