Last-ditch bid to save hospital beds

UNION chiefs in west Suffolk have joined forces to condemn the mass axing of community hospital beds as health chiefs look set to rubber stamp the controversial plans today.

UNION chiefs in west Suffolk have joined forces to condemn the mass axing of community hospital beds as health chiefs look set to rubber stamp the controversial plans today.

Last night, job cuts were believed to be inevitable if the planned culling of 48 inpatient beds at hospitals in two Suffolk towns was recommended.

Although the future of Newmarket Hospital and Sudbury's Walnuttree Hospital is secure, staff morale was said to be “rock bottom” after they were told of the news at meetings on Friday.

Under the plans - which will be discussed today but still have to be ratified by Health Minister Patricia Hewitt - the 48 inpatient beds would be replaced with a dozen beds in the private sector.


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But Geoff Reason, Unison's regional head of health, said: “Although Unison supports the concept of intermediate care in the community, this is a proposal which requires a great deal of thought and training to make it work.

“I still think there is an inconsistency between wholesale bed closures and intermediate care and I would prefer to see some hospital beds remain open.

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“I think people will remain sceptical of the plans until they are confident it will actually work. Also intermediate care is not cheap and I am sure there will be job cuts.”

The threatened hospitals are expected to earn a reprieve after it was revealed that outpatient services were expected to remain on site.

But Sudbury's second hospital, St Leonard's, is expected to close and be sold - with services transferred to the Walnuttree.

Tom Keane, Unison organiser for Sudbury, said: “Morale among staff at the moment is rock bottom as there doesn't seem to be any give or take with regards to community beds.

“There will be some job cuts even if they are going to consolidate services between the Walnuttree and St Leonard's as they are not going to re-deploy all ward staff.

“We are disappointed with the recommendations - with all the consultation and petitions, the PCT is still choosing to ignore the need for community beds.”

The recommendations will be discussed at a board meeting of the Suffolk West Primary Care Trust today .

PCT chief executive Mike Stonard said the changes were likely to be made over a six-month transitional period, instead of the initial three months.

He said some of the proposals, laid out in consultation paper Modernising Healthcare in West Suffolk, had been modified following a 19-week public consultation exercise.

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