Hospital faces beds crisis

By Benedict O'ConnorA BEDS crisis has forced health bosses to send patients to a hospital that they are considering shutting on safety grounds.The 68-bed Walnuttree Hospital in Sudbury is threatened with closure because of fire risks and, if closed, some of the patients who would have been treated there could be sent instead to West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds.

By Benedict O'Connor

A BEDS crisis has forced health bosses to send patients to a hospital that they are considering shutting on safety grounds.

The 68-bed Walnuttree Hospital in Sudbury is threatened with closure because of fire risks and, if closed, some of the patients who would have been treated there could be sent instead to West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds.

When health bosses announced the possible closure of the Walnuttree Hospital in October, they said West Suffolk Hospital would be able to cope with the influx.


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But the East Anglian Daily Times has learned that even though extra beds have been provided at West Suffolk Hospital, it is on “red alert” status and patients are having to be sent to Walnuttree Hospital because of the lack of available beds.

The move has sparked scorn and disbelief from campaigners trying to save the ageing hospital, who last week handed in a 10,000-signature petition at 10 Downing Street.

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Richard Spring, West Suffolk MP, branded the situation “absurd”, saying it undermined any argument that Walnuttree Hospital was unsafe and showed its strategic importance for the health care of the people of Suffolk.

“It seems like hospital trust doesn't really know what it's doing. The real issue is this, there is a shortage of intermediate care beds in Suffolk and it would be absolutely criminal to close down this hospital without restructuring or refurbishing it to provide the requisite number of beds,” he said.

“The idea that the solution is to put patients into an acute care situation like the West Suffolk Hospital simply won't wash.”

Walnuttree Hospital campaigner, Michael Mandelstam, added: “On one hand they are saying it's dangerous to keep people in the Walnuttree and they could be held accountable for anything that happened to them there and yet they are now admitting more people.

“This shows that they recognise how important the hospital is and that they can't really consider it dangerous if they are prepared to admit new people.

“If it was dangerous last week, how come it no longer is when nothing has actually change?”

Nigel Bennett, a member of Sudbury Town and Babergh District Councils, said: “This shows how important the Walnuttree is and as it is so important, surely they can come up with some measures to extend the life of the Walnuttree until the new health facility is built.

“It seems very odd that the health trust is prepared to do this if the Walnuttree's such a risk.”

A spokesman for West Suffolk Hospitals Trust said it was on red alert, which he added was quite normal for the time of year.

“We have had some patients suitable for care at the Walnuttree Hospital and they have been taken there for care and we have opened up extra bed capacity at the West Suffolk Hospital as well,” said the spokesman.

The axe was expected to fall on Walnuttree Hospital on Friday, but health bosses postponed a final decision on its future until next year to allow more investigations to be made into how the building could be improved.

benedict.o'connor@eadt.co.uk

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