Hospital slashes beds to save cash

THE scale of the health crisis in Suffolk was exposed last night as it emerged more than 250 hospital beds now face the axe.While cash-strapped health trusts desperately try to save millions of pounds from their budgets, beds and wards at the county's hospitals are bearing the brunt.

THE scale of the health crisis in Suffolk was exposed last night as it emerged more than 250 hospital beds now face the axe.

While cash-strapped health trusts desperately try to save millions of pounds from their budgets, beds and wards at the county's hospitals are bearing the brunt.

In the latest cuts, Ipswich Hospital is expected to reduce its capacity by 10% as it cuts 80 beds – 52 medical and 28 surgical – on up to four wards.

The Hayward Day Hospital, which is based on the Heath Road site and provides therapy services to 15 patients a day, also looks doomed as health bosses said the type of care it provides had "moved on".


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The cuts at Ipswich Hospital bring the total number of beds lost to at least 255 across the county so far.

Earlier this month, it was announced that more than 50 beds and two surgeries would be cut at the West Suffolk Hospital, in Bury St Edmunds.

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Newmarket Hospital will lose 16 beds and Walnutree Hospital, in Sudbury, had 68 beds and inpatient services cut.

Aldeburgh Hospital's minor injuries unit and 16 of its beds are casualties of the cutbacks, while the Bartlet Hospital, in Felixstowe, had half of its 50 beds closed.

Last night, Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust's board members were expected to rubber-stamp the proposed cuts but their decision will not be confirmed until Monday.

Cornelius Coates, chairman of the Ipswich Primary Care Trust Patient and Public Involvement Forum (PPIF), said: "We were devastated by it actually. We appreciate the difficulties that they face but quite frankly we are very discouraged by it.

"We can't see the service getting better and feel it is deteriorating. It has got to mean longer waiting lists somewhere. People most seriously in need of care and attention will receive it but those that are waiting will have to wait longer."

Lorene Baker, member of the Ipswich Hospital PPIF, said she personally thought care packages must be put in place prior to any possible closures being implemented.

She said: "If some of the different outlying hospitals are either closing or losing beds, how can the Ipswich Hospital be expected to take on more patients when there might be a possibility that four more wards there may close?

"There is talk of having care packages set up to keep people in their own homes when we are also hearing that there is a shortage of care available now."

Labour MP for Ipswich Chris Mole said last night the hospital's management had not yet briefed him on their proposals.

However he said: "I am trying to get a picture across the whole of the health economy in order to understand where best I can express any concerns I have to the health ministers about the approach that has been taken to the financial recovery.

"It does not sound like the commitments to avoid cuts to frontline services that were given."

Christine Smart, chairman of the hospital board, and chief executive Andrew Reed, briefed staff on the proposals.

In a joint statement they said the hospital needs to save £6.9million by working more efficiently and pay back £4.7m debt built up from previous years after a lack of funding for increased responsibilities.

A savings plan was drawn up, which included reducing the use of agency and temporary staff, cutting non-pay expenditure and ensuring patients were cared for in the "most appropriate place – both inside and outside the hospital".

Staff were also consulted about how they thought money could be saved.

Ms Smart and Mr Reed said the greater emphasis on providing more care closer to home led to the proposed closure of up to 80 beds at the hospital.

The axing of 52 medical beds was a result of new ways of working, which would result in far fewer delays for people well enough to leave hospital, they said.

An increasing move towards day surgery and agreed reductions in planned, or elective, activity meant 28 surgical beds may no longer be needed, they said.

Their briefing said a different way of providing the services the day hospital offers was being suggested.

"These services are now being provided in intermediate care, and the proposal recognises that the traditional 'day hospital' model of care has moved on in many other areas and we need to move on as well."

They said because of the financial challenges in Suffolk, the move away from "traditional services based on 'beds'" was happening at a faster pace and changes would be introduced this year.

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