Fourth hospital facing closure

By Mark HeathA FOURTH community hospital in Suffolk is faced with closure after it emerged that Felixstowe's Bartlet Hospital could be shut and sold off.

By Mark Heath

A FOURTH community hospital in Suffolk is faced with closure after it emerged that Felixstowe's Bartlet Hospital could be shut and sold off.

The option is set to be included in a consultation document that will be released by the East Suffolk Primary Care Trusts on Monday.

Health bosses have already admitted that one of Felixstowe's two hospitals - Felixstowe General is the other - was likely to close because the town cannot sustain both.

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A trusts spokesman said last night: “The proposals will include housing services at Felixstowe General and disposal of the Bartlet Hospital.

“It's for consultation, so nothing will be decided or done until the board has considered the feedback from the consultation.”

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The announcement came as the Walnuttree and St Leonard's Hospitals in Sudbury and the Hartismere Hospital in Eye already face an uncertain future.

It is yet another blow for Suffolk's ailing health system, which is plagued by spiralling debts of more than £40million.

Jenny Brabazon, chairman of the Suffolk Coastal Patient and Public Involvement Forum, said: “I am very dismayed that they want to sell off the Bartlet Hospital.

“It's in a very therapeutic setting and to say that Felixstowe has got too many hospitals and it should lose one of them is wrong.

“The Bartlet serves a much wider area than just Felixstowe. This portrayal of Felixstowe as a selfish place with more than its fair share of hospitals is slightly misleading.”

Miss Brabazon added: “That is definitely a proposal which is looking more likely than not at the moment. There's a battle there to be fought and we shall see what happens.

“I think it's very sad. It seems to me that something drastic is going to happen. If it's not the selling-off of the Bartlet, it's going to be something else as drastic.”

A financial assessment carried out by the trusts shows that they could expect to make around £3.44m if they sold the Bartlet, compared to £1.7m if they sold Felixstowe General.

John Gummer, Suffolk Coastal MP, who led a campaign to save the Bartlet five years ago, said: “This is not going to be a closure they will find easy. We are determined to win.

“It would be a serious blow to the provision of the National Health Service in Felixstowe. Secondly, it's totally contrary to the promises made to me and to the people of Felixstowe at successive meetings both last year and earlier this year.

“Right up to the election there was no question of closure - that was clearly stated by the primary care trusts locally.

“I have spoken directly to Patricia Hewitt, Health Secretary, making it quite clear it's totally unacceptable to pay for what are in fact running costs because these debts the primary care trust has got are debts for running costs, not because they have spent money on new hospitals.

“It's madness to sell capital, which is what they're doing in order to spend it on running costs. No business or family operates on that basis.

“It means what is supposed to be a facility for the people of Felixstowe is now going to be sold to pay for the running costs over the past two years. This is wrong.

“The Bartlet was given to the people of Felixstowe and it's supposed to service the people in Felixstowe and to take it away from them is to betray all those people who have put money towards it.”

The public consultation will run for 13 weeks until October 31. During that time there will be five public meetings for people to air their views, including on August 9 at Endeavour House in Ipswich and September 20 at the Kesgrave War Memorial Centre.

n The East Suffolk Primary Care Trusts approved yesterday a financial recovery plan that includes cutting primary care prescribing and reducing acute activity.

It is hoped the plan will save £14.3m this year - £9.4m risk adjusted - as the meeting heard the trusts were “building their debt” by £2,100 every hour.

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