Health campaigners time plea rejected

A LAST ditch plea to postpone a decision on the future of a swathe of health services has been scuppered as the D-day decision draws closer.Campaigners fighting for the future of Sudbury's two threatened hospitals last night urged health chiefs to postpone a decision on whether to close the Walnuttree and St Leonard's hospitals.

A LAST ditch plea to postpone a decision on the future of a swathe of health services has been scuppered as the D-day decision draws closer.

Campaigners fighting for the future of Sudbury's two threatened hospitals last night urged health chiefs to postpone a decision on whether to close the Walnuttree and St Leonard's hospitals.

But bosses at the Suffolk West Primary Care Trust (PCT) - due to make a decision about facilities in Sudbury, Newmarket and the West Suffolk Hospital in two weeks - have turned down their appeal.

Colin Spence, chairman of the Walnuttree Hospital Action Committee, said the PCT's proposals had left patients and staff feeling “significantly alienated” and that a recently-published Government white paper outlined the importance of community hospitals.


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Calling for current facilities to remain open until a new health campus in Sudbury opens in 2007, Mr Spence said: “The White Paper states that community hospitals should not simply be closed because of short-term budgetary pressures, if they are clinically viable and local people wish to use them.

“Community hospitals such as Walnuttree and St Leonard's in Sudbury are quite clearly clinically viable, as are other community hospitals in Suffolk, since they continue to deliver highly valued and effective recuperation and rehabilitation services for local people.

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“However, in Sudbury we stress that we do not have a sentimental interest in defending the bricks and mortar of Victorian buildings just for the sake of it.

“We believe that the existing Sudbury hospitals should remain open until a new community hospital, which should include beds, consultant outpatient clinics and minor injuries unit, is operational.

“We would all much rather work constructively with the PCT than continue in the current atmosphere of conflict and distrust.

“We therefore call on Suffolk West PCT to respond positively by postponing its decision, so to find a way forward in dialogue with the local community.”

Patients and staff throughout west Suffolk face an anxious few weeks before the PCT board decide on massive cutbacks to beds and services at hospitals in Newmarket, Sudbury and the Bury St Edmunds-based West Suffolk Hospital.

A spokesman for the PCT said: “The PCT has carried out a lengthy and proper consultation. We have already extended the consultation period due to the overwhelming response we received in regard to our proposals.

“All the views we received and the implications of the White Paper have been thoroughly considered, so there is absolutely no reason to postpone the plans to present our proposals to the board on February 22, when all issues will be explained and made clear.”

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