Fighting all the way to avoid a downgrading of Ipswich Hospital - Tom Hunt

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt says he has twice raised the future of Ipswich Hospital in parliament

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt says he has twice raised the future of Ipswich Hospital in parliament - Credit: Archant

The final decision on the proposals to remove elective orthopaedic surgery from Ipswich Hospital to a new centre in Colchester is fast approaching, with the local Clinical Commissioning Group expected to make a decision on July 14, writes Tom Hunt.

I wrote at length two weeks ago about my concerns and opposition to the plans but given the urgency of this issue I feel that there is more that needs to be said now.

This week I sent a joint letter with the Labour leader of Ipswich Borough Council, Cllr David Ellesmere, to the chief officer of the local Clinical Commissioning Group to underline our cross-party view that the plans as they stand would be detrimental to the people of Ipswich. We stated our opposition based on the fundamental concerns we have about the ability of Ipswich patients who need hip and knee surgery to get to and from Colchester Hospital, their ability to receive loved ones as visitors in Colchester and how unusual it would be for a general hospital of Ipswich’s size not to provide these services.

In the letter we urged the chief officer to scrap the plans and draw up new ones which would see the money currently earmarked for the new centre divided equally between Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals. I trust this letter from Ipswich’s primary representatives at both the national and local level will be treated as a sign of the overwhelming opposition of people in Ipswich to the plans to strip our hospital of what can only be described as core services. The fact remains that not a single one of my constituents has contacted me to say that the proposals are a good idea.

This would in my view represent a downgrade to our hospital at a time when there is already a widely held sense in Ipswich that our hospital is not benefiting from the merger with Colchester Hospital. And the sense that one hospital is being used to prop up the other instead of them both improving together.

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Given the level of concerns which cross the political divide in Ipswich and the impact these plans would have on many of the 390,000 people Ipswich Hospital serves, I fully believe that this issue deserves national attention. That’s why following our letter, I raised the plans twice in parliament this week to bang on the door of those in power to get this recognition and to call on ministers to consider intervening to protect our core services at Ipswich Hospital.

In the chamber, I also built on the concerns set out in the letter. It’s estimated that 700,000 people across the country have had their orthopaedic surgery postponed as a result of Covid-19 and this will be a national issue we must be prepared to tackle well into the future. However we must do this in a way that keeps these core services as close to people as possible. From the research that I’ve carried out if this proposal were to go through Ipswich Hospital would be the only Hospital of its size in the entire region not to have a full complement of Orthopaedic services. Hospitals in the region significantly smaller would continue to have elective Orthopaedics but we wouldn’t.

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Both Ipswich and Colchester hospitals deserve first-rate hospitals with a full complement of services to meet the challenges that are ahead. The current plans do have the right ambition of cutting postponements and cancellations to surgery but we must find a way that does this at both sites and that means neither hospital has to lose out.

I will of course keep raising this issue in parliament to get it the attention it deserves, and I will carry on until the concerns of the overwhelming majority of people in Ipswich are properly heard. Before I was elected I promised I would fight for our Hospital and that I would be a watchdog to ensure that we benefit from the merger, my constituents can continue to rest assured that I will do everything I can to fight our corner.

• On a slightly lighter note, I’m greatly looking forward to the further easing of the lockdown which the prime minister announced this week will start from July 4. From that date, many more local businesses in Ipswich will be able to welcome back customers, including pubs, restaurants, cinemas, outdoor gyms and hotels. Many of our local places of worship, culture and community will also be able to open their doors to more people too.

Like many others, I’m particularly looking forward to the reopening of our local pubs. That day is a Saturday and I’m gearing up for a socially distanced and socially responsible bar crawl where I will endeavour to reach as many of our fantastic and greatly missed pubs as possible.

A lot of them, like so many local businesses in our town, will be emerging on July 4 from an unprecedented period of uncertainty and financial difficulty. The support that’s been made available to them throughout Covid-19 has been essential but their smooth and successful reopenings will be just as crucial in securing their future.

This summer presents a fantastic opportunity for people in Ipswich to rally around our local businesses and support them with our custom. As long as we respect social distancing and other good practice to control the virus, we can start our town’s recovery from the virus in the strongest possible way.

Finally, though this week’s announcements will have come as a relief for many local businesses I appreciate fully that others aren’t so happy. It makes no sense to me that beauty salons are not able to open whilst hair salons are. I have been contacted by a number of beauty salons who are desperately disappointed by this and they can all rest assured that I’m doing everything within my power to lobby government and get clarity.

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