Government forces hospital closure

MOVES to axe a string of health services in Suffolk were last night rubber-stamped by the Government.Health secretary Patricia Hewitt has decided Felixstowe's Bartlet Hospital should be closed and 16 beds at Aldeburgh Hospital cut.

MOVES to axe a string of health services in Suffolk were last night rubber-stamped by the Government.

Health secretary Patricia Hewitt has decided Felixstowe's Bartlet Hospital should be closed and 16 beds at Aldeburgh Hospital cut.

Hayward Day Hospital, in Ipswich, will also go, although the closure-threatened Hartismere Hospital, in Eye, has been handed a possible reprieve.

While recognising the “significant unease in the community”, Ms Hewitt yesterday backed all but one of the cuts put forward by Suffolk East Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) - but questioned the need to close Hartismere Hospital.


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She said: “I do believe there is further scope for the PCT to work closely with the community and local GPs on the future of services on the Hartismere site.”

She suggested health professionals should work to find alternative ways of providing for residents' health care needs, using the existing hospital. Discussions will now begin that could mean inpatient beds remain available at the site.

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Carole Taylor-Brown, chief executive of Suffolk East Primary Care Trusts, said Ms Hewitt's announcement would enable the body “to develop our health services and make them fit for the 21st century”.

She said a “modernisation” programme that would see £4.4million of investment into community services could now begin. This includes a major refurbishment of Felixstowe General Hospital and the Hartismere site.

She added: "This decision is also important in that it now removes the cloud of uncertainty that has been over the PCTs and we are now in a position to implement the detailed plans that we have been drawing up over the past few months.

“While we are very pleased at this decision, we are also very aware of the concerns that led to the health scrutiny committee's decision. The PCTs are committed to making sure that patient safety, access to services and heritage concerns are addressed within the change programme.”

David Lockwood, chairman of the Suffolk Health Scrutiny Committee, said the body had reflected some “very strong local opinions and concerns” in deciding to refer the cuts to the minister.

But he said it was now important to closely monitor the impact of the changes and ensure patients benefit from the “improved good quality health care we are promised”.

Graham Newman, portfolio holder for adult and community services at Suffolk County Council, said: “I recognise there will be disappointment that the strong feelings of many people in the county have been overlooked.

“However, what this decision does give us is certainty and clarity about the future of health provision in the area. The county council has always said that it will work hard to make a success of whatever structure is in place for the good of the people in Suffolk. That is our focus.”

mark.bulstrode@eadt.co.uk

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