Public meeting called to debate future of threatened hospitals

A public meeting has been called to allow residents to give their views over proposals to close two community hospitals amid growing anger over the move.

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey has organised the meeting at the Rifle Hall, Halesworth, at 11.30am on Friday, June 19 to discuss the suggested closure of the Patrick Stead Hospital and Southwold Community Hospital.

Chief executive of the Great Yarmouth and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Andy Evans, will be attending to hear people’s views and explain the proposals.

Part of the plan involves substituting the hospital beds by funding “beds with care” in local care homes in the two towns.

The CCG plans to introduce out-of-hospital teams of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, and other staff from the health and social care sector, to provide treatment in the community and patients’ homes.

The Beccles Hospital in-patient beds would look after people who needed “more immediate care” from across Great Yarmouth and Waveney.

Dr Coffey said: “My key test for this proposal is whether the new hub-approach with NHS-funded beds in care homes will help patients.

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“I have organised this public meeting because I want to hear from people their views of this proposal and give people a chance to quiz the chief executive.”

The suggestion is that the hospitals could close in April next year with new nursing homes planned to open in late 2016 or early 2017.

However, there has been concern over the timescale.

David Thomas, vice chairman of Halesworth Town Council, said he was “appalled” by the proposals.

He said: “Even the survey questions themselves are set out in such a way as to obtain the result the CCG so obviously wants, the apparent closure of facilities to save money.

“This begs the question whether these proposals have been properly thought out.”

He said he had been assured the Patrick Stead Hospital would not close until there was a replacement facility in place at Cutler’s Hill. However, the proposed replacement has yet to be finalised, the land purchase agreed and planning permission approved.

He added: “This will take longer than April 2016 to achieve.”

Council chairman Anne Fleming said the council had been assured the Patrick Stead would not close until a new facility was up and running.

She added: “We’ve got an ageing population in Halesworth and it takes at least an hour to drive to a main hospital.

“The Patrick Stead is a brilliant facility where people can recover and their family and friends are able to visit them.”

The CCG has said people can be accommodated at “beds with care” in nursing homes and care homes.

A spokesman said: “We have been running this successfully in Lowestoft and reached out to a couple of hundred patients.

“Last year we saw a substantial reduction in the number of urgent admissions to James Paget Hospital from the Lowestoft area.”

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