New set back for town hospital

By Patrick Lowman(exclusive)…HOLDFEARS are growing that a proposed £12m town hospital will be hit by further delays and will miss its predicted 2005 opening date.

By Patrick Lowman(exclusive)…HOLD

FEARS are growing that a proposed £12m town hospital will be hit by further delays and will miss its predicted 2005 opening date.

The West Suffolk Hospitals NHS Trust says it remains confident the new multi-million pound Sudbury health village will open by 2005.

But plans to get its outline business case approved are nearly a year behind schedule and

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civic leaders and a leading health official say further delays are now inevitable.

The news is the latest blow for the people of Sudbury who have been campaigning for new facilities to replace the town's ageing St Leonard's and Walnuttree hospitals since 1972.

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Chairman of the Suffolk West Primary Care Group Joanna Spicer said: "I am very disappointed that the case for Sudbury has still not been approved by the regional health authority.

"I think the scheme will go ahead, but the timetable is slipping now. At this stage I have no idea when the case is to go before the authority again. I think delays are inevitable and I am concerned we might not meet the 2005 opening date."

It was originally hoped the outline business case would be rubber stamped in April 2002, and contracts would be signed with private finance partnership organisations by April 2003, keeping it the hospital on course for its 2005 opening.

But last year the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridge Health Authority refused to pass the business case on three occasions because it was unhappy with the financial situation of the Suffolk West Primary Care Group, which had a £2m deficit.

The West Suffolk Hospitals NHS Trust has confirmed it has not yet scheduled a date to re-submit for the outline business case for approval, which has sparked the new delay fears

Town mayor Nigel Bennett said: "It seems to be one step forward and two back as far as this hospital is concerned and we are struggling to see light at the end of the tunnel. We were told that the outline business case was likely to be approved in January, so we are very disappointed. We will now ask the trust to come to the town council and explain what the position is."

Despite the concerns, a statement issued by John Parkes, chief executive of West Suffolk Hospitals NHS Trust and Tony Ranzetta, chief executive of Suffolk West Primary Care Trust said: "West Suffolk Hospitals NHS Trust and Suffolk West Primary Care Trust remain committed to providing modern health care services for the people of Sudbury.

They added: "The future of health care provision in Sudbury took a major step forward last summer when the NHS purchased a site and obtained outline planning permission for it.

"What we are working on is seeing whether it is possible to bring forward and develop the component parts of the scheme in a phased way resulting in patients using new facilities sooner rather than later instead of having to wait until everything is in place.

"There are ways in which we can achieve this and this is what we are finalising.

The approval of the Outline Business Case and obtaining a pfi partner is only one way in which we can get the capital for the development funded. What we are exploring is whether it is possible to bring the development forward through a different route which is currently being finalised. That is why there is no date scheduled for the OBC hearings with the Strategic Health Authority."

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