Health services 'not in crisis'

THE author of a report into public health in west Suffolk has denied claims that services are in a state of crisis and said he remained optimistic any improvements could be made within much-publicised financial constraints.

THE author of a report into public health in west Suffolk has denied claims that services are in a state of crisis and said he remained optimistic any improvements could be made within much-publicised financial constraints.

Dr Peter Bradley, director of public health for Suffolk West Primary Care Trust (PCT), yesterday defended under-fire services, claiming that health in the county was good and residents were “socially and economically affluent”.

But he admitted there were areas to improve, with higher rates of teenage pregnancy and deaths from heart attacks compared to national figures.

The report comes as morale in services has hit an all time low with a wave of controversial cutbacks planned. Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley last night said the local health service was in “crisis”.

But Dr Bradley said: “The report shows that health in west Suffolk is pretty good which goes against the opinion that we are in a state of crisis.

“My overall view is that the health of the population in west Suffolk is generally pretty good. But we have identified a number of issues which we need to follow up.

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“There are a number of wards which are relatively deprived and in poor health while there are variations - in Forest Heath, for example, life expectancy is slightly lower than the national average.

“The NHS is facing financial difficulties but this just means we have to focus even more on ensuring people live healthier lives. But I am confident we can provide the best model of care under the financial constraints we currently face.”

The report said some smaller wards in the west of the county were among the most deprived and unhealthy in the country and admitted that in some areas - including breast and skin cancer - health statistics were “worse than expected”.

“We are working with the local community to improve public health and therefore prevent illness in the first place,” Dr Bradley said.

“Work to promote healthy lifestyles to prevent disease has rightly become a priority and the PCT is doing more to enable people to choose these lifestyles, especially children and those in deprived communities.”

Breaking down the report into areas of Suffolk, the report found that infant death in Lakenheath was twice the rate of Suffolk - but this was set against a background of a very small amount of deaths.

The wards of Sudbury south and east and Great Cornard north had the highest teenage pregnancy rates in west Suffolk.

Dr Bradley said every effort would be made to combat the problems and said more work would be carried out in schools in a bid to reduce high levels of teenage pregnancy.

But Mr Ruffley said: “The NHS in Suffolk is in crisis. This new report talks of planning services for the future yet all my constituents hear is news of cutback after cutback.

“There is very little good news for my constituents contained in this report and I think they are overwhelmingly not meeting the health needs of west Suffolk.”