MP demands probe into NHS debt

By Liz HearnshawAN MP has urged an immediate investigation into the “horrific and calamitous” financial crisis facing the area's hospitals before it worsened.

By Liz Hearnshaw

AN MP has urged an immediate investigation into the “horrific and calamitous” financial crisis facing the area's hospitals before it worsened.

Richard Spring, West Suffolk MP, has written to Dame Deirdre Hine, president of the British Medical Association, outlining the potential cuts to services in the area.

He described the mounting debts faced by both West Suffolk Hospital and Suffolk West Primary Care Trusts, which jointly stand at an estimated £40million.

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“The consequences for the people of Suffolk, where the situation county-wide is horrific, is frankly calamitous and nowhere more so than in west Suffolk,” said Mr Spring.

“There is a proposal to close the much-loved Walnuttree Hospital in Sudbury and to remove the beds from the Newmarket Hospital.

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“Ward closures, and that of operating theatres, are already leading to job losses at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. The situation in west Suffolk must surely be amongst the worst in England, if not the worse.

“May I therefore ask you, as a matter of priority, to investigate the true depth and breadth of the debt-ridden NHS in the area before it spirals further out of control.”

A spokesman for the British Medical Association said it had already published its concerns over NHS debt.

“We are carrying out a survey of trusts in England to find out how widespread the problem is. We would certainly be interested to get the details of this situation,” he said.

Meanwhile, campaigners fighting to save the Walnuttree Hospital have written to primary care trust bosses, urging the withdrawal of a consultation document that sought opinions on the proposed cuts to services.

Members of the Walnuttree Hospital Action Committee said any meaningful response to the document was impossible due to a lack of detail provided.

Colin Spence, committee chairman, said: “We urge the trust to do three things as a matter of urgency. First, to withdraw the consultation document immediately since we believe it to be fundamentally flawed.

“Second, to draw up a new set of considered proposals. Third, to start working in a constructive way with the local community.

“We believe that the consultation precludes meaningful response by the public. The concrete detail in the document relates only to reductions in service. Reference to alternative services is extremely light on detail.

“We believe it would be far more constructive for everybody if the trust was to withdraw the consultation, to look again at all the issues, possible options and priorities - and then come up with a new set of proposals for consultation.”

Mike Stonard, trust chief executive, said the consultation, which runs until October, had been specifically designed to encourage responses.

“This is a real, open consultation and we deliberately left a number of questions unanswered and asked for the public's help in finding solutions,” he said.

“The consultation is about engaging the public in debate about the type of care we provide in Suffolk West. We are proposing we stop the inappropriate reliance on inpatient beds when there are better and more cost-effective solutions available.

“It is important to make it clear that we are looking at a model of care, as a result of which we would not need the inpatient beds any more as cost-effective alternatives will be in place.

“The public have the right to consider what we are proposing and make comment on it. Part of that is being able to influence the way we put in place the community care alternatives.”

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