Health centre delay warning

BOSSES at a primary care trust last night warned that a decision to refer controversial cutbacks to central Government could have serious repercussions for a new community health centre in west Suffolk.

BOSSES at a primary care trust last night warned that a decision to refer controversial cutbacks to central Government could have serious repercussions for a new community health centre in west Suffolk.

Campaigners in Newmarket and Sudbury were handed a potential lifeline on Tuesday when the Suffolk Health Scrutiny Committee agreed to refer planned cuts to vital services to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

But celebrations in Sudbury - where campaigners hope to save inpatient facilities at the Walnuttree Hospital - were slightly soured after health bosses said the decision could cause delays to a new health and social campus in Churchfields Drive.

Suffolk West Primary Care Trust chairman Mike Stonard said: “The new campus has been put on hold while the decision is referred to Patricia Hewitt.


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“These delays could last another 18 months and in that time all the new plans for a health centre could go back to square one. The longer this goes on, the more uncertainty there is.”

But Peter Clifford, chairman of the Walnuttree Hospital Action Committee, described Mr Stonard's comments as “scare mongering” and pledged to work closely with the new Suffolk-wide PCT, due to be installed next month .

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“We are very aware that health services are changing and that both the PCT and NHS have financial problems,” said Mr Clifford, chairman of the Walnuttree Hospital Action Committee and member of the steering committee for the new campus.

“The only realistic way forward is to build something new for the future. The deadline for the new health campus has been repeatedly pushed back but I think we can build something even better on that site.”

The scrutiny committee's decision on Tuesday gives Mrs Hewitt the power to decide whether the 32 remaining beds at the Walnuttree will close, as proposed by the PCT.

Further bed cuts are also planned in Newmarket with health chiefs opting for greater focus on care in the community.

But campaigners in Sudbury are still hoping that the new health and social campus - combined with the town's Hardwicke House surgery - would be built to replace the aging community hospital, despite countless delays to the project.

Earlier this year, the PCT announced that a judicial review - brought by a former Walnuttree patient against the proposals - could scupper plans for the new health centre.

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