MP's warning on hospital closure threat

By Craig RobinsonAN MP has warned social services will be unable to cope if plans to move patient care away from hospitals and into the community get the go-ahead.

By Craig Robinson

AN MP has warned social services will be unable to cope if plans to move patient care away from hospitals and into the community get the go-ahead.

Tim Yeo, South Suffolk MP, said he feared Suffolk County Council would be unable to foot the bill if health bosses decided to close hospitals and focus on treating patients in their own homes.

He was particularly concerned about the plan to shut the Walnuttree Hospital in Sudbury and pledged to fight hard to prevent its closure.

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Mr Yeo said: “The budget set last year by the previous administration at Suffolk County Council for social care provision is not enough.

“If the primary care trusts want to shift more focus to treating patients in the community, then more money will have to be made available because at the moment it will just not work. Social services will not be able to cope.

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“It is not the fault of this administration because they inherited the budget in May, however I am pleased to see that they are responding and have got some procedures under way already.

“My particular concern is west Suffolk, where I think the proposed closure of the Walnuttree Hospital is hugely irresponsible and would enormously increase the burden on social services in this area.

“But it is a problem that is faced by all of Suffolk. We should resist attempts towards a move to community care because social services are not in a position to pick up the extra burden.”

Suffolk's cash-strapped primary care trusts have proposed a number of measures to try to reduce costs as they tackle their spiralling debts.

These include recommending the closures of the Walnuttree and St Leonard's Hospitals in Sudbury, the Bartlet Hospital in Felixstowe and the minor injuries unit at Aldeburgh Hospital.

There are also plans to cut the number of beds at Felixstowe General, Aldeburgh, Newmarket and Ipswich Hospitals.

Under the proposals, hospitals, primary care trusts and social services would work together to provide services for people in or near their own homes, eliminating the need for them to go to hospital.

Jane Midwood, county council portfolio holder for adult care and community services, said a review of the current budget was under way.

“As Mr Yeo rightly points out we are in an inherited situation in which the budget was overspent by £2.6million by the end of this financial year,” she said.

“Therefore, we had to start looking at how we could claw this back and decided that it could only be achieved through a review of all our existing clients receiving social care.

“Therefore, if this review indicates that there should be a change in someone's care plan, then we will look into it. For example, we may find that a client is more independent than previously thought so they do not need as much support.

“We welcome the move to community care just so long as there is financial backing from the primary care trusts. The Government has already indicated local government budgets next year have to be kept under control.”

Health bosses said they were already working closely with social services to ensure that funding would be available if the changes went ahead.

Jeremy Peters, head of communications for Suffolk East Primary Care Trusts, said: “We are working closely with social care and other partners to make sure that the proposed changes will maximise the real benefits for our patients.

“We are already looking at how we can invest some of the savings which will result from inpatient bed reductions into community services.”

No-one from West Suffolk Primary Care Trust was able to comment last night .

Suffolk County Council's health overview and scrutiny committee will meet on September 5 to discuss the funding problems in Suffolk.

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