'Sort Suffolk's NHS out yourselves'

PRIME Minister Tony Blair and his health secretary Patricia Hewitt have refused to raise the lingering hopes of campaigners battling against the closure of cottage hospitals and community units in Suffolk.

By Graham Dines

PRIME Minister Tony Blair and his health secretary Patricia Hewitt have refused to raise the lingering hopes of campaigners battling against the closure of cottage hospitals and community units in Suffolk.

They insisted yesterday that the only the way to modernise the NHS was for local health authorities to balance their books.

Speaking exclusively to the EADT, Ms Hewitt acknowledged that hospital closures in the county were “extremely controversial”, but insisted any decisions were best made “by the local NHS, and in particular by primary care trusts”.


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She was commenting just hours after Suffolk West Primary Care Trust voted unanimously to close St Leonard's Hospital in Sudbury and remove all inpatient beds from Newmarket and Sudbury's Walnuttree Hospitals. A decision by Suffolk East PCTs to shut Hartismere Hospital in Eye, Felixstowe's Bartlet Hospital, and to axe some beds at Aldeburgh has been referred to Ms Hewitt for confirmation.

Sir Ian Carruthers, acting chief executive of the NHS, said it was amazing how hospitals “in the worst possible workhouse conditions” suddenly became “the best loved in the community” when they were threatened with closure.

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Ms Hewitt and Sir Ian were speaking in Downing Street after the Prime Minister's “financial recovery in the NHS” seminar, at which directors of cash strapped hospitals and PCTs told him how they were forcing through difficult decisions to meet his agenda.

Full story, see Thursday's EADT.

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