Health cuts D-day delayed after mix-up

HEALTH cuts in west Suffolk have been put on hold after bosses admitted the views of thousands of objectors may have been misdirected.It has emerged a petition signed by more than 11,000 people, along with 5,000 letters, may have been handed to the Department for Health rather than Suffolk West Primary Care Trust (PCT).

HEALTH cuts in west Suffolk have been put on hold after bosses admitted the views of thousands of objectors may have been misdirected.

It has emerged a petition signed by more than 11,000 people, along with 5,000 letters, may have been handed to the Department for Health rather than Suffolk West Primary Care Trust (PCT).

Tim Yeo, MP for South Suffolk, has described the situation as “staggeringly incompetent”, adding the entire process has been handled in “slipshod” manner.

The Walnuttree Hospital Action Group alerted the trust to the situation on Monday, prompting it to announce a delay in making key decisions of the future of the health service in west Suffolk.

Mike Stonard, PCT chief executive, said: “As a result of contacts with the Walnuttree Hospital Action Group (WHAC) we have become aware of the possibility that an 11,000 plus-signature petition and 5,000 letters may have been sent to the Secretary of State, rather than the PCT.

“We are working with the Department of Health to check that these responses have not already been included because we would want to analyse this significant additional feedback so it can be taken into account in the paper that goes before the board when it decides the way forward. We are grateful to the WHAC for drawing this issue to our attention.”

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Cuts being considered by the primary care trust include the closure of Sudbury's Walnuttree and St Leonard's hospitals and bed losses at West Suffolk and Newmarket hospitals.

The proposals were due to discussed at a meeting in Bury St Edmunds next Wednesday.

Now the trust is considering holding an extraordinary board meeting once everyone's views have been taken into consideration.

Mr Yeo hopes the extra time will help campaigners fight the moves.

He said: “I think it's staggeringly incompetent of them not to have received these views. It has been handled in a very slipshod way.

“It obviously means the PCT needs more time to consider them. A lot of people have taken the time to make their representations and it's important they're listened to. There's still hope for the protesters.”

Mr Stonard admitted it would be impossible to analyse 5,000 new responses before next week, in addition to the 3,500 already received.

The trust has said the final decision, which follows a four-month public consultation held between August and December, will be taken in public.