Hospital wards could be closed down
By Benedict O'ConnorHEALTH bosses are working on contingency plans if they are forced to close ageing wards at a hospital on safety grounds.They fear a safety investigation into the Walnuttree Hospital in Sudbury will reveal its inpatient wards are unsafe.
By Benedict O'Connor
HEALTH bosses are working on contingency plans if they are forced to close ageing wards at a hospital on safety grounds.
They fear a safety investigation into the Walnuttree Hospital in Sudbury will reveal its inpatient wards are unsafe.
The former workhouse, which dates back to 1836, is currently home to about 60 patients, described as “mostly elderly”, who will all have to be transferred to other hospitals if the Walnuttree is declared dangerous.
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The results of a safety investigation are due at the end of November and West Suffolk Hospitals Trust chief executive, Chris Bown, said contingency plans were already being drawn up to face the possibility of closure.
“If the inspectors tell us there is a serious risk of safety to patients, staff and visitors that cannot be easily rectified, we will have no choice but to withdraw inpatient services,” he said.
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“We cannot put people's lives at risk. The trust has always put the safety of patients and staff first and if we have to act we will.”
It is thought that were the closure to go ahead, it would mean a huge influx of patients at the West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds.
Mark Crawley, Suffolk West Primary Care Trust director of modernisation, said: “We will be working very closely with West Suffolk Hospital and social care to reduce the short-term impact of any reduced services at the Walnuttree Hospital.”
However, a spokeswoman for West Suffolk Hospitals Trust, said it was not thought that the impact would be too severe.
She added: “It will be challenging, but West Suffolk Hospitals and the primary care trust and social care are all working together to ensure patients are properly looked after should the Walnuttree Hospital close.
“First of all we have to tell the people the situation and now we are going through the practicalities of making these plans work, but at this stage it is too early to go into detail.”
The spokeswoman also denied the potential influx of 60 new patients onto the hospital's wards and the extra pressure resources would have any impact on the hospital's bid for foundation status.
Mr Bown said the trust was also working to safeguard jobs of staff employed at the Walnuttree Hospital.
The results of the safety report will be considered by the trust board at the end of November when a decision on the hospital's immediate future will be made.