NHS chief urged to visit Suffolk

THE head of the NHS was invited to see Suffolk's struggling health service last night after he described financial problems as mere “turbulence”.John Gummer, Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal, has given NHS chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp an open invitation to the county in a bid to show him how financial pressures are leading to “closure and disaster, not turbulence”.

THE head of the NHS was invited to see Suffolk's struggling health service last night after he described financial problems as mere “turbulence”.

John Gummer, Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal, has given NHS chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp an open invitation to the county in a bid to show him how financial pressures are leading to “closure and disaster, not turbulence”.

He made the move after Sir Nigel defended the financial performance of the health service amid growing concerns over a predicted deficit of £620million nationally, which has been blamed on the major reforms being introduced by the Government.

“It is not unravelling at all,” Sir Nigel said. “When you are introducing change you will inevitably have some degree of turbulence.


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“The underlying picture here is that 75% of the NHS has got its finances under control. I agree that there are certain areas that need to control finances better.”

In Suffolk, multi-million pound debts have sped up a shake-up of the health system, which will see care provided near or in people's homes instead of in community hospitals. This has led to proposed cuts at the county's two acute hospitals, while the axe hangs over community hospitals and redundancies are planned.

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But Sir Nigel's report said: “We are now at a turning point in the NHS. Over the last five years the NHS has been growing fast, with more staff and facilities.”

His comments provoked Mr Gummer to call for Sir Nigel to visit the county so the MP could “show him how what he has said does not apply to Suffolk”.

“Firstly, it is not a question of using facilities better for the public; he's closing the facilities and reducing them.

“Secondly, it seems to me that the health service hasn't faced up to the fact that these debts have been incurred by his officials - people he has put in place, not the local authorities, you or I.

“I find it absolutely unacceptable that he should be asking people locally to pay the cost of this failure.

“Sir Nigel is presiding over an NHS that, in my constituency, will be worse after these changes than 30 years ago.”

He said describing the effect of the changes as “turbulence” was “far too complacent” and said Sir Nigel should be working out how to provide enough money to maintain standards and go forward.

Mr Gummer asked: “How can you talk about quality to patients when they will not be able to go to hospital in Aldeburgh; what is quality when they will not have a Bartlet?”

Dr John Havard, from the Saxmundham surgery, who has mooted a plan for Aldeburgh residents to buy its community hospital from the health trust, said: “I think that it is fair to say that it has never been as turbulent over the last 30 years.”

Lorene Baker, member of Ipswich Hospital's patient public involvement forum, said that although Sir Nigel reported the NHS has been growing fast, with more staff and facilities over the last five years, Suffolk was now seeing the “complete upturn” of this, with redundancies and cuts.

Colin Spence, chair of the Walnuttree Hospital Action Committee - one of the community hospitals facing closure - said: “Turbulence is an understatement.”

Dr Brian Keeble, acting chief executive of Suffolk East PCTs, said it was “inevitable” that its ambitious plans would create turbulence as they involved the rationalisation of services as the trusts strive to balance the books, instead of the expansion that has been happening over recent years.

Sir Nigel's report, released yesterday , also highlighted the progress made in improving patient outcomes and achieving value for money in the NHS in England.

Chris Mole, Labour MP for Ipswich, said of the report last night: “I think it's an accurate description because it describes both the huge progress that's been made in waiting times and waiting lists, time spent in accident and emergency, the reduction in cancer deaths and the reduction in heart disease deaths whilst at the same time there has clearly been localised problems with managing all of that progress and achieving financial balance in some parts of the NHS, like Suffolk.

“Sir Nigel Crisp has put in a nutshell the mixture of achievement and challenge we can see very clearly locally.”

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