Hospitals axed - and more cuts to come

CAMPAIGNERS last night condemned the controversial closures of two community hospitals and four day hospitals - and braced themselves for £26m worth of cuts to be made over 12 months.

By Richard Smith

CAMPAIGNERS last night condemned the controversial closures of two community hospitals and four day hospitals - and braced themselves for £26m worth of cuts to be made over 12 months.

The Suffolk East Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) yesterday sounded the death knell for the Bartlet Hospital, Felixstowe, and Hartismere Hospital, Eye, in front of more than 100 people at a board meeting in Kesgrave.

Now the focus will switch to finding more ways to make further cuts in the 12 months to the end of March 2007 in a last-ditch bid to balance the financial books.

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The PCTs remain troubled by huge debts and are about to be “fined” £2million by the Government for having a £20m deficit. It is now estimated, by Julian Herbert, the finance director, that the accumulated debt facing the PCTs will be £26m.

Carole Taylor-Brown, chief executive, admitted: “We have spent somebody else's money. We have to pay an interest or a usage charge because other people are underspending to support us and somehow that has to be acknowledged.”

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The PCTs expect to pay £1m in redundancy money and £100,000 on training staff. They want to spend £800,000 on upgrading Felixstowe General Hospital and £600,000 on improving the Gilchrist centre, in Eye.

They will need to spend more than £3m annually on paying for extra community staff to follow the new model of care. This is to provide extra care in the community and reduce the need on hospital beds.

The PCTs will save nearly £4.8m annually by closing the community hospitals and they will save £3.2m by cutting back on paying for acute hospital beds. The sale of the two community hospitals will bring in between £4m and £6m.

The full impact of these financial decisions is not expected until 2007-8 which is after the Government deadline for all debts to be repaid.

The PCTs have also agreed to close the Hayward day hospital at Ipswich Hospital, day hospitals in Kesgrave, Saxmundham and Violet Hill, the Old Fox Yard clubhouse, Stowmarket, the Bridge House clubhouse, Ipswich, and the Pines occupational therapy unit, St Clement's Hospital.

The Hollies employment project, St Clement's, is earmarked for closure but it will go out to tender to establish if there is an alternative provider. The number of NHS commissioned beds at Aldeburgh Hospital will be reduced to 20. Changes are also proposed for Bluebird Lodge, Ipswich. No-one on the board voted against any of the changes.

The overwhelming majority of people who took part in consultation fiercely opposed the changes. But the meeting was told the decision was not a public vote.

Mrs Taylor-Brown said: “These proposals are not primarily about money. Yes, they have an impact on our financial situation but the majority of these proposals will see a reinvestment of savings in new services, to provide more care to more people in a much more flexible way.

“There are some GPs who are not supportive of the decision to close beds but there is a very strong and broad opinion that supports it. Of course some local GPs will have a different view and we need to work with them to help them understand this new model of working.”

The Professional Executive Committee (PEC), representing health professionals, said it supported the efficient use or disposal of buildings and the proposed changes. But it was worried about the ability of community-based health teams to deliver the additional health care that was required, and expressed grave concerns about the impact of a reduced social services budget.

Andrew Reed, chief executive of the Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust, said: “We are seeing significant rises in the numbers of people admitted to hospital on an emergency basis. It can only be explained that we do not have these appropriate services outside hospital. We desperately need those services and we support the model of care.”

Mark Halliday, chief executive of the Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, said there was not a significant risk that the users of mental health services would suffer.

After the meeting Eric Hawes, chairman of the Hartismere Hospital League of Friends, said: “My faith in officialdom has gone down. I can not understand how all those people can sit and listen to what they have in front of them but not one of them is brave enough to say 'no'.”

Sheena Griffiths, chairman of the Aldeburgh and District Community Hospital League of Friends, said: “We originally had 36 beds before all of this started. We now have 30 and we are going to go down to 20.

“I am pleased that they have now recognised that step down beds is an extra provision that needs to be maintained and the League of Friends will support the development of the hospital because it is a very, very important and respected local amenity.”

Roy Gray, chairman of the Save Our Felixstowe Hospitals group, said the decisions were not unexpected but he vowed to keep on fighting to save the Bartlet Hospital from closure.

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