Rural hospital to close ward
A RURAL hospital is to close one of its four wards – to the concern of staff and disappointment of the local community.But the Central Suffolk Primary Care Trust claimed the move, affecting Hartismere Hospital at Eye, was not just a cost-cutting measure to help reduce a £9 million NHS overspend in east Suffolk.
By David Green
A RURAL hospital is to close one of its four wards – to the concern of staff and disappointment of the local community.
But the Central Suffolk Primary Care Trust claimed the move, affecting Hartismere Hospital at Eye, was not just a cost-cutting measure to help reduce a £9 million NHS overspend in east Suffolk.
It said the closure also reflected national and local policies of trying to treat more people in their own homes.
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News of the closure caused concern in Eye yesterday because people had been told earlier this year that the proposed sale of some of the hospital's land would finance a significant increase in the range of its services by the end of the decade.
Hospital staff were told about the ward closure in two private meetings last Thursday.
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Bed numbers will be reduced from more than 60 to a maximum of 45 by 2005.
One member of staff, who asked not to be named, said yesterday that in-patient numbers were to be gradually reduced over the next few months leading to the closure of one of the existing four wards next year.
"We are worried that this is just the beginning of the end and further cuts will eventually be announced. We suspect they are trying to pull the wool over our eyes," she said.
Julie Todd, Central Suffolk PCT spokeswoman, confirmed there were plans to reduce in-patient numbers and close one of the wards.
This would save money through a reduction in the number of "agency nurses" who worked at the hospital.
However, it was also in line with national and local policies. "People do not like going into hospital and would prefer to stay in their homes," she said.
She also discounted speculation that the move was the first step in running down services at Hartismere.
Two new out-patient services had recently been started, one for people with head injuries and the other an ultra sound facility.
Plans to sell off some of the hospital's land and invest in more services during the period 2007-2010 were still intact.
"We are trying to develop community and intermediate care services and trying to prevent people having to go into hospital as in-patients. There will be a contraction in some services and an expansion in others," Ms Todd added.
David Thorndyke, mayor of Eye, said he was "disappointed" to hear news of the ward closure and expected local people to be concerned.
"We were looking forward with optimism to the hospital's future - we want to see it expanding, not contracting, and being used to its full potential.
"Local people want to go into a local hospital, not travel to Ipswich," he added.