NHS in Suffolk 'falling apart' - MP

THE NHS in Suffolk is "falling apart" and services could be worse than 30 years ago if cutbacks go-ahead, an MP has claimed.John Gummer, Suffolk Coastal MP, was speaking as figures showed the pressure under which Ipswich Hospital has been operating – and where there are now plans to axe more beds.

THE NHS in Suffolk is "falling apart" and services could be worse than 30 years ago if cutbacks go-ahead, an MP has claimed.

John Gummer, Suffolk Coastal MP, was speaking as figures showed the pressure under which Ipswich Hospital has been operating - and where there are now plans to axe more beds.

The statistics revealed the hospital has been put on "red alert", when there are only a handful of beds empty, on 37 days in the last year.

Contingency plans put into action included closing the hospital doors to all but the most serious of cases.


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In the worst incidents, the 800-bed hospital was put on emergency status - where patients could only be admitted under blue lights - 24 times in the last year, with some lasting more than 24 hours.

The figures have prompted Mr Gummer and patient groups to warn the hospital could already be at breaking point despite it planning to axe more beds.

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But a hospital boss has reassured the public that management of beds has improved in the last six months.

It is also claimed that pressure on the hospital will be relieved by the move to a new mode of caring in the community, with illnesses treated and prevented closer to people's homes.

But John Gummer, MP for Suffolk Coastal, claimed: "It does show that the NHS in Suffolk is falling apart.

"If the cuts which are envisaged do take place then the Ipswich Hospital will not be able to provide the service which we expect. None of the Primary Care Trusts will be able to provide the help which is necessary, as the closure of a hospital in Felixstowe and the serious reduction in beds at Aldeburgh will mean more pressure in Ipswich, which itself is going to have to deal with bed closures.

"It is very serious indeed. The NHS will, if the present proposals go forward, provide a worse service today in 2005 than it was providing 30 years ago."

He blamed the financial crisis facing the county on the Government, saying for every £1 given to the rest of the health service in the country Suffolk receives only 90p, when his constituents are some of the oldest and most vulnerable.

He said: "The situation in Ipswich Hospital just shows that even without the repayment of debt they were on red or blue alert on all these days. What on earth is going to happen if these proposed cuts happen?

"Will we have a hospital that is only open on a red alert basis? It is so frightening for my constituents. If you have old and vulnerable people then the NHS makes them feel safe."

The east Suffolk health trusts are currently consulting on proposals for a series of cuts as they try to claw back a multi-million pound debt.

These include the closure of Hartismere Hospital, in Eye, reduction of inpatient beds in Felixstowe and closure of the Bartlet Hospital and annexe. They are also planning to reduce beds at Aldeburgh Hospital to 20 and seek an alternative commissioner for the remaining inpatient beds there.

The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust is also planning to close the Hayward Day Hospital, based at the hospital, along with 34 beds.

Lorene Baker, member of the Ipswich Hospital patient and public involvement forum (PPI), said: "I think the worst bit is that with all the cuts taking place, particularly with the closure of a community hospital and community beds, it will be making things much worse.

"With these closures it is going to influence the figures. I just don't know how it is going to cope."

She said she thought the capacity of the hospital was standing at about 97% to 98% at the moment and added that demand for beds would also put pressure on health workers and would heighten worries about infection rates.

She said: "We have heard that people have also been sent home when there does not appear to be the proper care package set up for them."

Chris Dooley, director of finance and performance at Ipswich Hospital, said: "We are doing all we can to ease the pressure on beds so that we do not have to be on red alert or indeed blue lights only.

"But achieving this is a partnership between all of us that work in the NHS and we have seen a marked improvement in the past six months since we introduced a new way of managing beds and the flow of patients through the hospital."

Responding to Mr Gummer's comments, Chris Mole, Ipswich MP, said: "The NHS is doing more operations, employing more doctors and nurses and turning people round much more quickly than it was 10 years ago.

''The NHS has never been so busy, the capacity of the NHS has grown enormously and it is ridiculous to suggest that the NHS is in some way not performing as well as it has done in the past. It is doing a lot more.''

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