MPs clash over Suffolk NHS crisis

A GOVERNMENT minister last night used a new Conservative Party policy document to rubbish claims by Suffolk Tory MPs that the county should receive more health funding because of its large elderly population.

By Graham Dines

A GOVERNMENT minister last night used a new Conservative Party policy document to rubbish claims by Suffolk Tory MPs that the county should receive more health funding because of its large elderly population.

Junior health minister Andy Burnham told the House of Commons the Tories nationally were calling for NHS funding “to accurately reflect the burden of disease”.

He said that was a “direct contradiction” to the claims of Tory MPs in Suffolk who suggested that “old age should be the major indication of need in the NHS” and on that basis, Suffolk should get more than the average of health service resources.


You may also want to watch:


“The burden of disease does not equate to old age,” said Mr Burnham. “Indeed, longevity is a sign of good health and not of bad health.”

On crucial health indicators of cancer mortality rate, coronary hearth disease rate, and incidents of stroke, Suffolk came out better than his constituency in Greater Manchester.

Most Read

Mr Burnham was replying to a debate initiated by Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer who raised the problem of massive deficits racked up by hospital and primary care trusts in the county.

Mr Gummer said the Government had organised the way in which money was handed out to make it “impossible” for Suffolk to provide even an average service on what was less than an average funding per head.

“It is not just one PCT or one hospital which has overspent its budget over many years, it is every PCT and every hospital.”

He blamed the Government for failing to fund properly health provision in Suffolk and claimed that the NHS under Labour was worse today in the county than it was 25 years' ago when he was the then MP for Eye.

He said: “When everybody knows that old age is the major indication of need for help by the NHS, the Government has decided this is not a proper reflection when it comes to deciding what the resources should be.”

Mr Gummer hit out at the closure of the Bartlet Hospital in Felixstowe and the changes to Aldeburgh and Hartismere Hospitals and suggested that none of the £300m promised by the Government for investment in community hospitals was likely to be seen in Suffolk.

He attacked Ipswich's Labour MP Chris Mole for “his little support” in the battle by Tory MPs to save Ipswich Hospital from cuts needed to overcome a £50m deficit.

“He has certainly not come out to protest about them,” said Mr Gummer, who said 357 jobs - 10.1% of the workforce - were going to be lost.

Later in the debate, Mr Mole hit back at Mr Gummer's taunts, saying he was once again the victim of a concerted attack by Tory MPs.

“I have been engaged with my health trusts on a regular basis as a constituency MP, when my understanding is that he had not set foot in Ipswich Hospital for a number of years,” he said.

Mr Mole praised the investment in health care in Ipswich - six months waiting time for elective surgery had been reduced in the past year from more than 500 patients to just one, and the number of people waiting 13 weeks to see a hospital consultant had been cut from 500 to zero.

He said Suffolk Tory MPs focused more on buildings and beds than on outcomes and patients. The NHS was delivering improved performances that saw people treated with day surgery rather than being in hospital for four days.

In his reply, the minister said that Mr Gummer and two other Suffolk MPs Richard Spring and David Ruffley, who also spoke, had failed to mention new investment in the county, including £1.4m for Felixstowe General Hospital, and £600,000 for Mount Farm Surgery in Morton Hall, Bury St Edmunds.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter