Health shake-up on way from Lansley

THE body that sets the health strategy for the region could be set for major reform – or even total abolition.

Health minister Simon Burns refused to discuss the future of the Cambridge-based Strategic Health Authority during a visit to Ipswich Hospital yesterday.

But he did insist that the new government intended that health decisions should be made “from the bottom up not the top down”.

When asked whether this would mean changes to the SHA, Mr Burns insisted that the future of strategic bodies like this would be part of a new health White Paper to be published by Secretary of State Andrew Lansley over the next few weeks.

He said: “I cannot discuss the SHA because of the White Paper – but our principle is that decisions should be made at a local level.”

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During his visit Mr Burns was shown around recent improvements at Ipswich Hospital including the cancer care centre and the new garden for elderly patients on Grundisburgh and Haughley wards.

He said that hospital services, including the treatment of heart patients, should be decided locally – and insisted that it would be up to local managers to decide whether to develop specialist services like heart attack treatment.

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He was accompanied during his visit to the hospital by new Ipswich MP Ben Gummer who said later that the health White Paper was still being drafted because of the need to discuss issues with both parties in the coalition.

During the election campaign the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives had slightly different health policies, and while it would not be difficult to reach agreement, there did need to be negotiation.

The health service has been made exempt from the government’s proposed cuts in government spending – and Mr Burns said this would continue beyond the first year.

He said: “There is nothing more important than ensuring the health of people across the country and we shall ensure the NHS has the resources it needs.

“I am very impressed by what I have seen during my visit to Ipswich today. It is a hospital clearly serving the community.”

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