Templers flare at health cuts meeting
By Craig RobinsonTEMPERS flared as members of the public grilled bosses about the future of Suffolk's debt-ridden health service. At a highly-charged meeting yesterday scores of concerned residents were given the opportunity to quiz senior health officials - with one audience member claiming the proposed cuts in mental health services had been the cause of two deaths and an attempted suicide.
By Craig Robinson
TEMPERS flared as members of the public grilled bosses about the future of Suffolk's debt-ridden health service.
At a highly-charged meeting yesterday scores of concerned residents were given the opportunity to quiz senior health officials - with one audience member claiming the proposed cuts in mental health services had been the cause of two deaths and an attempted suicide.
The discussion marked the start of a three-month consultation period in which the public can air their views regarding the Changing for the Better document, which sets out how health services in east Suffolk will develop in the future to combat combined debts of £47.9million.
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It recommends a number of cuts including closing the Hayward Day Hospital at Ipswich Hospital; closing Felixstowe's Bartlet Hospital and its annexe; cutting beds at Aldeburgh hospital to 20; and removing all inpatient beds at Hartismere Hospital in Eye by the end of March 2006.
There are also proposals to close a number of services for people with mental health problems including the Hollies and the Pines at St Clement's House in Ipswich, the Old Fox House clubhouse in Stowmarket and Bridge House clubhouse in Ipswich.
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At the meeting in Ipswich, Kris Mohtram, who works at Bridge House, a community based day centre for adults with mental health problems, claimed the proposal to close it had led to two deaths.
“Because of the cuts we have two deaths from the Orwell Bridge, another patient trying to slit their wrists and another falling into the River Gipping,” he said.
“The body tally is really starting to go up and if the services are going to close there will probably be around 300 people who are without support and there are not enough services to go around.”
Peter Mellor, from Felixstowe, said: “Talk about this being for the better really gets up my nose.
“It's going to make life worse because it is a cut in services. A reduction in beds is not going to make things better, I don't know how you can get up there and say those things.
“We're only one week into the consultation period and I have heard that staff at Felixstowe hospital are already being encouraged to leave.
“What belief have we that come the new financial year when we have lost everything that there still isn't a whopping debt?”
Peter Griffiths, from the Friends of Aldeburgh Hospital, said: “This is a cost-cutting exercise and I don't think we should fool ourselves that it is any other type.”
Carole-Taylor Browne, chief executive of Suffolk East Primary Care Trusts, said they were facing a challenging time because of the financial situation.
“We believe that we are changing for the better, but unfortunately because of the financial situation what we would have liked to have done slowly we are forced to do on a much quicker scale,” she said.
“Any money raised through sales will be reinvested into patient care so that we can improve our services, as well as being used to help tackle the debt and put into savings.
“I would also like to say that no nurses have been encouraged to leave their job. I apologise if I seem angry, but this is a malicious rumour that has been circulated and affects the morale of our staff who do an excellent job.”
She added the proposals under consideration would see a shift away from patient care in hospitals to care in the home so that people could be treated within the community.
Robert Bolas, director of nursing at Suffolk Mental Health Partnership Trust, said in a statement released last night that both suicides mentioned at the meeting had been investigated and were unrelated to the proposal that Bridge House would close.
“The incidents happened before the proposals were even considered. I would also like to emphasise that in both cases there was evidence showing the individuals involved had very complex issues relating to their personal lives,” he said.