Health cuts branded

By Jonathan BarnesTHE closures of community hospitals and bed cutbacks are being opposed “in the strongest terms” by a coalition of councils.Suffolk Association of Local Councils is appealing to health bosses to “step back” from decisions to axe services as a result of a multi-million-pound funding crisis.

By Jonathan Barnes

THE closures of community hospitals and bed cutbacks are being opposed “in the strongest terms” by a coalition of councils.

Suffolk Association of Local Councils is appealing to health bosses to “step back” from decisions to axe services as a result of a multi-million-pound funding crisis.

It said the proposals were “at best a short-term knee-jerk reaction” and warned they could “inflict considerable damage” to the county's most frail and needy.


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Health bosses across the county are planning to close community hospitals in Sudbury, Eye and Felixstowe and axe beds at Aldeburgh and Newmarket Hospitals as they try to tackle multi-million pound debts.

But SALC said the closures “can only result in higher funding needs across all services now and in the future”.

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Mary Mitson-Woods, its chief executive, said: “We are really concerned about these closures - the more rural parishes are particularly worried about services being offered further away from them.

“It's not just about patients, it's elderly relatives and people without a car who will not be able to visit those in hospital. Services in rural areas are becoming increasingly difficult to access.

“The Government is taking about services being delivered more locally - but this does not fall within that culture.”

Mrs Mitson-Woods said the group's opposition to the hospital closures was being made clear to NHS trusts.

“Once these community facilities are closed and capitalised they will never be retrievable,” she said.

“The service will be gone forever and the proposal to close can at best be seen as short-term knee-jerk reaction and at worst as inflicting considerable damage to the most frail and needy in our society. It is not the strategy of a caring authority.”

She added the situation would be viewed differently if the money saved as a result of closing hospitals was used to develop state-of-the-art medical centres at existing surgeries.

Health bosses have said the cutbacks at community hospitals would be replaced by greater care in the community, closer to patient's homes. Consultation is currently under way on the proposals.

The NHS in Suffolk is currently facing a £47million deficit, which must be paid back by the end of 2005-6.

jonathan.barnes@eadt.co.uk

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