Hewitt gives health promise

HEALTH Secretary Patricia Hewitt has agreed to look into the financial crisis crippling the NHS in Suffolk – as another small hospital faced closure.Hartismere Hospital in Eye is likely to close by the end of March 2006 following a decision by the Central Suffolk Primary Care Trust.

HEALTH Secretary Patricia Hewitt has agreed to look into the financial crisis crippling the NHS in Suffolk - as another small hospital faced closure.

Hartismere Hospital in Eye is likely to close by the end of March 2006 following a decision by the Central Suffolk Primary Care Trust.

Pat Potter, acting chairperson of the PCT, which is grappling with a £2.9 million overspend, said at yesterday's board meeting: "Hard and unpalatable decisions will have to be made, this year and next year."

The PCT wants to locate existing and proposed "care in the community" services in the nearby building currently occupied by the Gilchrist maternity unit.


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The news came as Suffolk Conservative MPs Tim Yeo, Richard Spring and Sir Michael Lord, along with Liberal Democrat peer Lord Phillips of Sudbury, met with Mrs Hewitt in a crunch meeting over the state of the county's hospitals.

Faced with a countywide debt of £42.5 million, under-fire health bosses have announced massive cutbacks.

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Proposed cuts include 55 beds and two surgical theatres at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, withdrawing 16 beds from Newmarket Hospital, closing the Walnuttree and St Leonard's hospitals in Sudbury, and removing the minor injuries unite from Aldeburgh Hospital.

The MPs called for health chiefs in Suffolk to be given more time to pay off debts, said under-funding of the NHS in the county must be addressed, and voiced particular concern about the closure of the Walnuttree Hospital in Sudbury.

After the meeting, West Suffolk MP Mr Spring said: "She now has heard it from the horses' own mouths. We've got a very strong case I think, and I hope she will respond."

Mr Yeo said: "We focused on three points. The first was the under-funding of Suffolk compared to some other parts of the country, which she promised to look at byt made no commitment.

"The second issue was that, if the Trusts in Suffolk have to balance their books, that they should be given longer time to do so.

"The third point was once which related specifically to Walnuttree. This was about the fact that the actual proposal is directly contradictory to all we were given earlier in the year."

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