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Health union urges caution for Ipswich and Colchester hospitals ahead of key merger decision today

PUBLISHED: 10:07 29 March 2018 | UPDATED: 10:25 29 March 2018

Board members will make a final decision about the proposed merger of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals today. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Board members will make a final decision about the proposed merger of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals today. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

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One of the UK’s largest trade unions has warned against the planned merging of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals ahead of a landmark meeting today.

Dr Shane Gordon, director of integration for the merger, at a recent public meeting to explain the plans. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNDr Shane Gordon, director of integration for the merger, at a recent public meeting to explain the plans. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

UNISON said that important questions concerning the merger remained unanswered, and not enough has been done to engage and consult with staff and the public.

As well as financial concerns, UNISON claims both existing trusts in Ipswich and Colchester are experiencing problems regarding the recruitment and retention of key staff such as nurses, midwifes, radiographers and occupational therapists.

Board members at Ipswich Hospital will today make a final decision on the proposals to merge the organisation with Colchester Hospital, to create the largest NHS trust in East Anglia.

UNISON Eastern regional organiser Caroline Hennessy said: “It surely can’t be healthy for the new hospital trust to be starting out life so heavily in debt, and for its bank balance to be firmly set in the red for the first five years of its existence. After merger, it’ll be hard for the new organisation to make savings, and there’s concern that patient services and staff will end up feeling the pinch as a result.

Nick Hulme, chief executive of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, outside the Garrett Anderson Centre at Ipswich. Picture: GREGG BROWNNick Hulme, chief executive of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, outside the Garrett Anderson Centre at Ipswich. Picture: GREGG BROWN

“UNISON isn’t against the merger in principle, but when the boards meet later today, they must make sure they’ve taken time to consider all the issues. They must resist ‘full steam ahead’ mode, until they’ve had the chance to sit down properly with staff, patient groups, and the public on how the plans will work in practice.”

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has this week announced an £87 million investment to modernise health and care services in Suffolk and north-east Essex.

Of this grant, £69m is earmarked for the merger of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, which will together become East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust.

Bosses at Ipswich Hospital have revealed they are planning to use the money to buy new diagnostic equipment for A&E, including a CT and MRI scanner.

The cash will also see the hospital create more day case capacity and relocate some clinical services to improve patient experience.

Members of the public are invited to attend the meeting today where board members will consider the full business case for the merger of the two trusts.

It will take place from 2.30pm to 4.30pm at Ipswich Corn Exchange.

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