No hospital cuts until December

By Patrick LowmanHEALTH bosses have given assurances that no cuts at hospitals or other care services will take place until a thorough public consultation has taken place.

By Patrick Lowman

HEALTH bosses have given assurances that no cuts at hospitals or other care services will take place until a thorough public consultation has taken place.

The pledge comes on the day the Suffolk West Primary Care Trust and West Suffolk Hospitals Trust are expected to agree a programme of controversial money-saving cuts.

If the plans go-ahead, a three-month period of public scrutiny will follow - and officials from both trusts promises none of the services currently under threat would be touched until the consultation had been completed.

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The two trusts have drawn up a controversial financial recovery plan in an effort to clear mounting debts by 2007.

They have proposed closing 55 beds and two surgical theatres at West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds, closing 68 beds at Walnuttree Hospital, Sudbury, and withdrawing another 16 beds from Newmarket Hospital.

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Outpatient clinics at Thetford Cottage, Newmarket, and at Walnuttree and St Leonard's Hospitals in Sudbury, have also been earmarked for closure as the primary care trust plans to centralise these services at West Suffolk Hospital.

Proposals for up to 30 inpatient beds at the new Sudbury health campus - due to open in 2007 as a replacement for the ageing Walnuttree Hospital - will also be shelved if the recovery plan is given the go-ahead.

The move would mean both Sudbury and Newmarket would be left with no hospital beds, which Unison officials said would put West Suffolk Hospital under “impossible” pressure.

If the outpatients clinics in Sudbury were also axed, it would leave the town with no hospital facilities until 2007 at the earliest.

But campaigners in the town fear the proposed new health complex will also fall victim to the cuts after primary care trust bosses announced they wanted to withdraw the outline business case for the scheme currently being considered by the strategic health authority.

A spokeswoman for both trusts confirmed none of the services under threat would be axed until December at the earliest after a public consultation period has been held.

“If the boards approve the recommendations, there will be a three-month consultation period,” she added.

“We will be inviting members of the public, staff and patients to make comments and those comments will then be reported back to the boards in November or December.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of people are expected attend a public meeting at Sudbury Town Hall at 7pm tonight to draw up battle plans to fight the proposed closure of Walnuttree Hospital.

Tim Yeo, South Suffolk MP, who has organised the meeting, said: “We have invited the managers of the primary care trust to attend.

“I hope they will show willingness to face the consequences of their actions by coming and giving an explanation to the public, who are the ones who are going to suffer.

“I am urging as many people as possible to attend the meeting to discuss how we can go about fighting these ludicrous proposals.”

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