Fight for health centre will continue

AN innovative health and social care centre planned for Saxmundham "cannot be allowed to be lost", a county councillor has warned.Suffolk County Councillor Joan Girling, who covers the area, said she was "very disappointed" about a decision by health officials not to allocate the necessary funding for the proposed one-stop health shop.

By Sarah Chambers

AN innovative health and social care centre planned for Saxmundham "cannot be allowed to be lost", a county councillor has warned.

Suffolk County Councillor Joan Girling, who covers the area, said she was "very disappointed" about a decision by health officials not to allocate the necessary funding for the proposed one-stop health shop.

The scheme - more than three years in the planning - would have included a birthing unit, ambulance station, crèche, social care services and a children's centre.


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But primary care trusts chief executives decided the "innovative and progressive scheme" would not share in nearly £1 million allocated by the Government for schemes in the county.

The decision has been condemned by local people, who were looking forward to the benefits the new centre, which was at an advanced planning stage, would have brought.

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"All of the direct benefits that an innovative project like that brings cannot be lost. I feel that so strongly that it cannot be allowed to be lost," said Mrs Girling.

She believed that if the project did not go ahead, there would be a knock-on effect for the whole of the town.

"I have already spoken to other politicians about getting it back on track," she added.

"I think we have got to find a way to resurrect it, whether it's this coming financial year or next year."

The councillor said she would be taking the matter up in the New Year.

"My own personal feeling is there's a lot more hanging on this than just the healthcare services for the benefit of Saxmundham and the surrounding area, and after the holidays I'll be making those points and finding out if there is a way we can help," she said.

"I'm very disappointed over a project that has got to the stage it has," she added. "But when you are disappointed it means you get up and dust yourself off and see what you can do to get the project up and running, even if it's at a later timescale."

Suffolk County Council estates manager Brian Prettyman said they could see a lot of benefits to the local community in providing them with integrated services, and there were also benefits in bringing together different social care functions under one roof.

"Clearly, we are disappointed it's not going ahead, insofar as we put a lot of work in," he said.

"The council was certainly keen to work with the doctors to provide a joint service to the community and this would have presented a good opportunity for doing that."

Locating a team alongside a doctors' surgery where the client group was very similar was something they were keen to do, he said.

As well as a children's centre, social care staff dealing with older people were to be housed there.

"If that scheme doesn't go ahead, we'll have to rethink our strategy for the area," he added.

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