Hospital sell-off plans revealed

HEALTH bosses in east Suffolk hope to raise £6million from the sale of two community hospitals with the sites being put on the market within months, it has been revealed.

HEALTH bosses in east Suffolk hope to raise £6million from the sale of two community hospitals with the sites being put on the market within months, it has been revealed.

Suffolk East Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) bosses have outlined how they plan to make major savings to pay multi-million pound debts.

They are hoping to sell the Bartlet Hospital in Felixstowe "as soon as possible" and plan to put it - and Hartismere Hospital in Eye - on the market as soon as February.

Sales of the two facilities are expected to raise £3m each, while further savings of £4.8m are earmarked from axed services at the two hospitals, and at Aldeburgh Hospital.

Redundancy costs are expected to reach £1.8m, but expected savings of a further £3.2m are planned by reducing "avoidable" admissions to acute hospitals, such as Ipswich.

PCT bosses will invest £2.8m in community services to replace the hospitals - representing a saving of £2m on providing services in the area, which will go towards paying an overall deficit of about £18m.

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John Gummer, Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal, described the proposals as "incompetent and dangerous" and called on independent members of the PCT and the Strategic Health Authority to resign.

"These savings will be made at the cost of the oldest and most vulnerable people in our community. We shall fight them right down the line," he said.

"Frankly, this is poorly researched and incompetently-based financial jiggery-pokery. It adds up, as I feared, to providing the worst health service that east Suffolk has seen for 30 years.

"I call upon the independent members of the Primary Care Trust and the Strategic Health Authority to resign rather than provide cover for this incompetent and dangerous deal."

Jenny Brabazon, spokesman for the Suffolk Coastal Patient and Public Involvement Forum, said: "There is unanimous opposition to these changes - I haven't yet spoken to anybody who thinks they are a good idea.

"I would have liked to have seen much more public involvement in the decision-making progress, with these figures made available before the consultation started."

In a report going to board members on Wednesday, PCT bosses said they planned to reduce the number of beds at the Bartlet Hospital to 20 or less by February and put the hospital on the market.

They said the building was "not fit-for-purpose for a modern health service" and the three-acre hospital site, including an annexe, cost £672,000 a year to maintain. Its close proximity to the sea of has also had a "deleterious" effect on the building, they added.

The PCT said it would consolidate services at the Felixstowe General Hospital, including the addition of up to 14 inpatient beds, additional outpatient clinics and a £730,000 refurbishment project.

Overall savings in Felixstowe, aside from the cash pocketed from the sale of the Bartlet, will amount to £1.65m.

Bosses want to sell two-thirds of the Hartismere Hospital site, including the main hospital building and rear land, with services retained at the Gilchrist Unit, lodge and old ambulance station.

They said the building was "inefficient and uneconomic", costing £867,460 a year to maintain, and "too large and inappropriate" for services in the future.

The site is expected to sell for £3m and the PCT said a number of developers had shown interest, with a range of services, including care homes or sheltered housing schemes, being proposed.

Hospital services at the main building are planned to be decommissioned in February, when the site will also go on the market. The cutbacks at Hartismere will save £2.8m, bosses forecast.

Savings of £325,000 are earmarked in Aldeburgh by reducing the number of beds at the town's hospital to 20 or less, which will be used for "step-up" purposes.

A spokesman for the PCTs said: "We acknowledge that everyone has a right to express their view and understand that Mr Gummer has a particular viewpoint, but it is for the board to determine when they consider the report in public on Wednesday.

"The report builds on the foundations already set down in our strategy, Changing For The Better, and public consultation document.

"What we want to do is bring care more close to home and this is in line with national guidelines and policy.

"The report outlines how we are proposing to invest £2.8m in additional community care services to modernise to nationally-recognised models of care which will result in increased levels of independence and confidence for patients."

The crippling financial situation across the county means health trusts are tackling debts of more than £70m.

Ipswich Hospital is set to lose 10% of its beds in the cutbacks, while job losses and ward closures are also on the cards at West Suffolk Hospital, in Bury St Edmunds, and community hospitals in Sudbury and Newmarket are facing closure. Other day hospitals and mental health units are also under threat in the cash crisis.

The Suffolk East PCTs board meeting is taking place at Kesgrave War Memorial Community Centre at 10.15am on Wednesday.

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