By Sarah ChambersAN MP said he had been “betrayed” over assurances given before the general election on the future of two hospitals in his constituency.

By Sarah Chambers

AN MP said he had been “betrayed” over assurances given before the general election on the future of two hospitals in his constituency.

John Gummer, Suffolk Coastal MP, has written to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt to express serious concerns over plans to close the Bartlet Hospital in Felixstowe and cut the number of NHS beds at Aldeburgh Hospital from 36 to 20.

Mr Gummer said the situation had been “made worse by the total lack of trust in the NHS management” after he and his constituents had been publicly promised in April that NHS provision in Aldeburgh and Felixstowe was to be extended.

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The cash-strapped Suffolk Coastal Primary Care Trust is currently holding a public consultation about the plans.

“Within the last year I have in effect chaired two meetings at which I and my constituents have been promised publicly two wholly different plans, but in both, the NHS provision in Aldeburgh and Felixstowe was to be extended,” said Mr Gummer.

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“Now, after the election, I personally have been betrayed because I was given absolute assurances on the last plans and I, therefore, told my constituents they could rely on the word of the primary care trust.

“Those promises given in April have now been totally disowned. Aldeburgh is to lose NHS beds instead of gaining services and one of Felixstowe's hospitals is to close instead of being refurbished.

“In 30 years, I can think of no comparable circumstance. I must therefore ask you to ensure that the solemn undertakings given by the primary care trust to me and to my constituents be carried out in their entirety.

“If we cannot trust the word of those who are in charge of our public services, the whole basis of trust in our national institutions is undermined.”

Mr Gummer described the decision to cut beds at Aldeburgh as “a panic proposal”.

Following the announcements about the plans for the two hospitals, Mr Gummer said he had spoken to Mrs Hewitt for almost half an hour by telephone.

“She accepted that, despite her extensive briefing, she was not aware of the serious issues stemming from the promises made to me and to my constituents,” he said.

“As she will be the final arbiter, after the consultation process is complete, she could not, of course, comment on the issues involved, but she is now absolutely clear about the strength of feeling and our determination to fight any proposals that diminish Aldeburgh's services.”

Mr Gummer said the primary care trust had been under-funded, but had to provide a full service to a population that was disproportionately old and frail, and was in debt as a result.

It now faced the “impossible task” of bringing the finances into balance by the end of the financial year, he added.

A spokesman for the Suffolk East Primary Care Trusts said: “The primary care trusts, together with other NHS organisations in Suffolk East, have now commenced a major public consultation exercise on health services in the area, including proposals for Aldeburgh.

“We look forward to haring people's views on these in writing and at the forthcoming public meetings, including the one chaired by Mr Gummmer at the Elizabeth Orwell Hotel, Felixstowe, on September 30 at 2pm.

A spokeswoman for the NHS said: “The local NHS is currently consulting on the proposed changes to hospitals such as Aldeburgh.

“Following consultation, if objections are made by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, then the matter could be referred to ministers for final decision. In view of this, it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.”

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