Health campaigners' last-ditch plea

CAMPAIGNERS have made a last ditch plea to save much-needed community beds in west Suffolk as councillors decide whether to refer the cutbacks to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

CAMPAIGNERS have made a last ditch plea to save much-needed community beds in west Suffolk as councillors decide whether to refer the cutbacks to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

Members of Suffolk's health scrutiny committee will meet today to decide whether to refer the swathe of cuts to the Government - just four months after initially voting to back the plans.

Suffolk West Primary Care Trust (PCT) plans to remove the remaining rehabilitation beds at Newmarket Hospital and all the inpatient beds at Walnuttree Hospital, in Sudbury.

After first deciding not to refer the changes to the Health Secretary, the multi-council scrutiny committee has now decided to look at the matter again.

Richard Spring, Conservative MP for Suffolk West, said: “I am extremely pleased that the committee will be reconsidering referring the PCT proposals to the Secretary of State.

“I have passionately campaigned to retain these valuable rehabilitation beds at Newmarket Hospital.

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“This proposal is nothing to do with enhancing patient care, but a bureaucratic exercise, unrelated to the real needs of patients and the local community and is largely driven by the financial chaos in the West Suffolk NHS.”

Frances Jackson, member of the Walnuttree Hospital Action Committee, is taking the PCT's decision to close the beds to a judicial review and is due to speak at the meeting today.

“I will speak from the patients' point of view - the people of Sudbury are relying on us to do what we can, and I am going to give it my best shot,” she said.

“We are hopeful it will be referred, we are hoping something positive will come out of this, and that the scrutiny committee will come up with something so we can look forward to the future.”

The scrutiny committee has the power to refer the PCT's decisions on removing beds to Mrs Hewitt for further consideration.

David Lockwood, chairman of the scrutiny committee, said: “It should be a good debate as it is a very interesting case.

“Half of the members are new and we have had a chance to read the papers that went to the previous committee.

“All things change in Suffolk and we have to take into consideration the new (Suffolk-wide) PCT coming in and the Suffolk East PCT proposals, which were referred and only came back with minor changes.”