NHS chief calms hospital fears

HEALTH chiefs last night confirmed a brand new hospital serving the people of west Suffolk would be based in Bury St Edmunds and the same size as the region's current medical centre.

Laurence Cawley

HEALTH chiefs last night confirmed a brand new hospital serving the people of west Suffolk would be based in Bury St Edmunds and the same size as the region's current medical centre.

In a shock announcement last week, bosses at West Suffolk Hospital revealed contact had been made with St Edmundsbury Borough Council over a new site for the facility.

The news triggered concerns of a smaller replacement hospital - with MP Richard Spring saying he was fearful of any cuts to services.

But speaking to the EADT last night, Chris Bown, West Suffolk hospital chief executive, confirmed a new facility would be built in Bury St Edmunds and that it would be a similar size to the Hardwick Lane plot.

“This is something for 15 to 20 years time,” he said. “We have contacted the council because it is doing its local development framework which runs until 2031. It really is long term planning - as regards any detail, there is zero.”

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He said the new hospital would be built in Bury because it was central to the 250,000 population which use it.

Asked whether there might be changes to services, Mr Bown said healthcare itself could be very different in 20 years time.

“It was a very different NHS 20 years ago - people were dying of illnesses who are not dying now, the length of stay in hospital has come down,” he said. “It will change if people are to get the very best care in the future. Nothing is going to stay as it is.”

He moved to assuage fears over the trust cutting back on investment in existing services and said the current hospital would be able to meet the needs of patients for the next 10 to 15 years.

“We are still making significant investments in the hospital,” he said. “We have spent £3million on a new pharmacy and on endoscopy. We will continue to invest for the next 20 years.”

Services would continue to run at the current Hardwick Lane site until the new building was ready to take patients, Mr Bown said.

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