New fears over health centre

PLANS for a long-awaited new health centre in a Suffolk town remain uncertain, it has emerged.Community leaders, staff and patients in Sudbury spoke of their fears last night over the planned new health and social campus in the town due to the merger of primary care trusts due later this year.

PLANS for a long-awaited new health centre in a Suffolk town remain uncertain, it has emerged.

Community leaders, staff and patients in Sudbury spoke of their fears last night over the planned new health and social campus in the town due to the merger of primary care trusts due later this year.

And they received little reassurance from current bosses of the Suffolk West Primary Care Trust who admitted they could give no firm answers as to the future plans or any designs for a new centre.

The despondent community were left reeling at last night's packed annual town meeting - just a day after they spoke of their anger at the PCT's decision to close all 32 beds at the Walnuttree Hospital.


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Local resident Peter Clifford, a member of the PCT steering group set up to discuss the new centre planned for Churchfields Road, said he appreciated residents' concerns.

“At the moment, no one seems to know what is going on and what is going to happen,” said Mr Clifford, who is also a member of the Walnuttree Hospital Action Committee.

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“No designs have been agreed and there has been no decision over the terms of the lease at the new site.”

On Wednesday, the PCT board rubber-stamped proposals to shut the town's St Leonard's Hospital and axe all inpatient beds at the Walnuttree - but retain outpatient services at the site until the new campus was built.

Instead, the PCT placed greater emphasis on care in the community with the introduction of at least six new beds in the private sector - with similar plans outlined for Newmarket.

But residents last night said they had serious fears over the future of the new health centre - which would also incorporate town GPs - because of plans to cut the number of primary care trusts to just three across the region.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury told the EADT it would be “inconceivable” if the health campus was not built.

He added: “If that was to happen, then the roof would come off the town. Services have already been reduced to the bone. I believe in ten years time the PCT will rue the day it cut inpatients beds.”

Answering questions about the new centre, PCT chief executive Mike Stonard told the meeting: “I am very careful not to use the word guarantee.

“But a way to ensure, as far as we possible can, that these changes will be implemented is to start them as quickly as possible and to make sure the money is committed.

“We cannot bind any new organisation to a policy or an agreement but I see no reason why they would want to change things - it would create a host of problems.

“I am fully aware there have been many promises made in Sudbury which should never have been made.

“But we plan to retain all consultancy-led specialities currently provided in Sudbury to remain at the Walnuttree before being transferred to the new centre when it opens.”

The PCT steering group was due to meet today to discuss the way forward for the new health centre. But town mayor Lesley Ford-Platt told the meeting she was also concerned about the current plans to drop hospital beds in favour of care in the community.

She said: “It is not about keeping the bricks and mortar of the two hospitals, it is about retaining hospital services in Sudbury at an appropriate level.”

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