Colchester chosen over Ipswich for new £30million hospital treatment centre

An artist's impression of what the new orthopaedic centre will look like in Colchester. Picture: ESN

An artist's impression of what the new orthopaedic centre will look like in Colchester. Picture: ESNEFT - Credit: Archant

Patients from Suffolk will have to travel down the A12 for operations in the future - after Colchester was chosen over Ipswich as the site of a brand new multi-million pound orthopaedic centre.

Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich. Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich. Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS - Credit: Archant

Up until now, Ipswich and Colchester hospitals have each had their own orthopaedic centre where people can be operated on in their home town.

However after the two hospitals merged in 2018, East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) announced that £34million would be spent on one new state-of-the-art centre serving both towns.

Orthopaedic treatment deals with bones, muscles and joints, with the most common operations being hip or knee replacements.

MPs and community leaders from the area lobbied for their town to be host the site, but ESNEFT chief executive Nick Hulme has now confirmed that Colchester has won the day.

Nick Hulme, chief executive of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals. Picture: ARCHANT

Nick Hulme, chief executive of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Ipswich's MP has branded the decision as "disappointing" - but Mr Hulme said: "During discussions it became obvious there was only one solution, the only place that we could have the centre was Colchester.

"It would have been disingenuous of us to go to the public with unfeasible options and there was not the infrastructure to support a facility in Ipswich."

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Why has Colchester been chosen over Ipswich?

The centre will need to have nearby access to emergency facilities, whereas the proposed Ipswich sites were judged to be too isolated.

While ESNEFT says orthopaedic operations are very safe, there needs to be access to other facilities such as emergency care in case it is needed.

There is also space on the Colchester site to build next to other important clinical services, which means nothing will need to be moved around which saves money.

More people live in Colchester, with more than half of the current planned orthopaedic patients served by Colchester and the town expecting a population growth of 17% by 2041. In Ipswich, it is only predicted to rise by 9%.

Colchester Hospital also has better links to public transport.

What will it look like?

The facility is to have 48 beds and six specialist operating theatres, with a mixture of four bed bays and some single rooms with en-suite facilities. It will also be possible for families to stay overnight.

The total cost of the new centre, and the moving of the current day facilities in Colchester, will be £44million.

It is expected to be finished in 2024 and will be next to the Elmstead unit, which previously housed day surgeries.

It is expected that 13 patients will be treated per day and most will stay for around three to four days after their operation.

Will the move improve services?

ESNEFT expects waiting times for surgery to go down, saying that 30% of planned orthopaedic surgeries are currently cancelled. This can rise to as high as 80% during the winter.

The majority of cancellations are due to beds in the orthopaedic ward being occupied by emergency patients.

The new centre will be exclusively for elective surgeries, so beds will be reserved for patients. This means that fewer operations will be cancelled and waiting times are expected to decrease.

ESNEFT stressed that all other services will be completed at your hospital, meaning patients will only be required to travel for your operation.

Outpatient appointments, scans, presurgical preparation, checks and post-surgery follow up will not change location.

What has been the reaction?

Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, has branded the decision as "disappointing" for the people of Suffolk and is worried that the merger of the two hospitals is not benefiting Ipswich.

He said: "I said that if it's the case that the Orthopaedic centre is based in Colchester then it's imperative that there is not a negative impact on Ipswich.

"Our hospital currently has a first class reputation and service when it comes to orthopaedic surgery.

"However, I do have concerns that the proposed changes could negatively impact the quality of this work; concerns which need to be addressed during the consultation."

Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, said the merger should "produce a better outcome for patients" but maintained that she was conscious that this will mean patients and families will have further to travel.

"I will be making that point formally in the consultation," she added.

"Patients will be aware that they can also opt to go to other hospitals but I expect that will not be necessary for most patients in Suffolk Coastal."

Sarah Adams, leader of the Labour group at Suffolk County Council, challenged Mr Hunt and said: "This is a big test for Ipswich's Tory MP Tom Hunt.

"He has already failed to deliver his promise on the Ipswich Northern Bypass - as a bare minimum, I now expect him to stop the move of Orthopaedic Surgery to Colchester.

"He must not let down Ipswich's residents again."

What will happen to the current orthopaedic centre in Ipswich?

The current facility in Ipswich will be used for other services and allow a reshuffle of services to ensure linked departments are located closer to one another.

What happens now?

A consultation is now to be held over the details of the planned new centre, such as how people will travel there and the facilities provided on the site.

Richard Watson, deputy chief executive for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, will be undertaking a two week tour of North Essex and Suffolk to hear what the public have to say about the new service.

For those with concerns about transport and travel to the new centre,this will be an opportunity to ask questions - there are ideas to have a shuttle bus for residents travelling from outlying areas of Suffolk.

Mr Hulme said: "We want this consultation to be an opportunity for us to hear what you want for this new centre, and answer any questions that people may have about it."

How can I give my views?

Public meetings:

- Monday March 9, Wivenhoe, Congregational Church - 2-4pm

- Monday March 9, Eye, The Bank Arts Centre - 6-8pm

- Tuesday March 10, Woodbridge, Community Hall - 10.30am-12.30pm

- Tuesday March 10, Ipswich, Central Library - 6-8pm

- Wednesday March 11, Harwich, Park Pavillion - 10.30am-12.30pm

- Wednesday March 11, Clacton, Coppins Hall Community Centre - 2-4pm

- Thursday March 12, Aldeburgh, Fairfield Centre - 10.30am-12.30pm

- Thursday March 12, Colchester, YMCA Hall - 6-8pm

- Friday March 13, Needham Market, Community Hall - 10.30am-12.30pm

- Friday March 13, Felixstowe, Orwell Hotel - 2-4pm

You can email with the title of 'Orthopaedic Surgery Centre Consultation Response' or fill out a survey here.

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