Last-ditch plea to save hospitals
CAMPAIGNERS in west Suffolk battling sweeping health service cuts are today making last-ditch pleas to save their vital community hospitals.Action group members and community leaders now face an anxious wait over the future of Sudbury's two hospitals and vital beds and services at Newmarket and West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds.
CAMPAIGNERS in west Suffolk battling sweeping health service cuts are today making last-ditch pleas to save their vital community hospitals.
Action group members and community leaders now face an anxious wait over the future of Sudbury's two hospitals and vital beds and services at Newmarket and West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds.
But their urgent calls could go unheard, according to West Suffolk MP Richard Spring, who described the consultation over the planned cuts as “completely farcical”. He fears a decision could already have been made.
Health chiefs will next month decide the fate of a swathe of health services across west Suffolk with communities bracing themselves for the worst.
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Under the controversial proposals, both the Walnuttree and St Leonard's hospitals in Sudbury would close but community leaders have vowed to fight on.
Colin Spence, chairman of the Walnuttree Hospital Action Committee, said: “No matter what decision is made next month, we owe it to the community to keep going and fight until we don't have any fight left.
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“We have set out very strong and coherent arguments why the primary care trust (PCT) must just stop and think about what it is are doing to the community of Sudbury, both now and future, in terms of heath service provision.
“The campaign has been amazingly successful and I must pay credit to all those who have worked on the committee.”
The Suffolk West PCT has also proposed cuts at the West Suffolk Hospital, Bury, and Newmarket Hospital in its consultation document Modernising Healthcare in west Suffolk.
Although health chiefs claim this would lead to an improved model of care with greater emphasis on care on the community, there have been widespread accusations that the cuts are purely finance-driven with the county's health services facing multi million pound debts.
Shirley Crickmere, member of Newmarket's health forum, said the action group had formed a business plan to help the cash-strapped PCT and save the community hospital's inpatient beds.
“We want to create a trust and try and help with the funding of Newmarket Hospital,” she said.
“Our hospital is actually in the black and people of all ages need the facility. The PCT board is full of local people who must know why we need community hospitals.”
Mr Spring said: “This whole exercise has been completely farcical as while it was going on, beds and staff have already been cut.
“This shows the consultation has nothing whatever to do with the views of the people of west Suffolk.
“The PCT knows what the public want - a decent NHS with a proper number of beds and the retention of community hospitals. The health crisis in Suffolk has been brought about by management and bureaucratic incompetence.”
A spokesman for Suffolk West Primary Care Trust said: “The PCT would like to thank everyone who has contributed to its public consultation, Modernising Healthcare in West Suffolk.
“The consultation ends today and the PCT has had 3,000 responses. These responses will analysed and a full report will go before the PCT's Board on January 26, 2006.
“The recording of the data from the responses will be independently verified by the Patient, Public Involvement Forum.
“The very fact that we have had so many responses to our consultation shows that the general public do not perceive the consultation as a 'farce' and they have responded in their thousands.”