Town's hospitals under closure review
FELIXSTOWE AND ALDEBURGHBy Richard SmithMORE than 40 beds have been axed and a hospital could close as health bosses try to balance the books.The Suffolk Coastal Primary Care Trust board agreed at a meeting yesterday to close immediately the minor injuries unit at Aldeburgh Hospital and reduce the number of NHS beds there from 36 to 20.
FELIXSTOWE AND ALDEBURGH
By Richard Smith
MORE than 40 beds have been axed and a hospital could close as health bosses try to balance the books.
The Suffolk Coastal Primary Care Trust board agreed at a meeting yesterday to close immediately the minor injuries unit at Aldeburgh Hospital and reduce the number of NHS beds there from 36 to 20.
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It also approved a proposal to reduce the number of inpatient beds at the Bartlet Hospital, Felixstowe, from 50 to 25.
The board further agreed to carry out a review of the trust's four buildings in Felixstowe - which include the Bartlet and General Hospitals - which could see the loss of one of the resort's hospitals.
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It stressed no decisions had been taken about the future of the four sites in Felixstowe and pledged any decision would only be taken after full public consultation.
The public has started campaigning to keep the General Hospital open - and this could be at the expense of the Bartlet Hospital as it is on a prime position overlooking the sea and would be worth a great deal for a housing development.
Martin Smith, a board director, warned: “Community hospitals across Suffolk are at risk.
“There is a closure and a reduction of beds elsewhere and it cannot be reasonable for us to sit here and say in the face of that, that the town can expect to have two hospitals.
“It would nice to have two hospitals, but it is not realistic to feel that we can continue to have two hospitals.”
Carole Taylor-Brown, trust chief executive, added: “This board has not made a decision about how to use its estate.
“There are two hospitals and two other buildings providing health care facilities. No decision has been made about which is the most appropriate piece of estate to keep and which is the most appropriate to dispose.”
Members of the public were highly critical about the huge financial mess engulfing the trust, which is losing £675 an hour.
Malcolm Minns, chairman of the public and patient participation group, said: “How in God's name managing a business have you allowed these deficits to develop over the recent years to the point where we are now likely to suffer pain as a consequence?
“Anybody with business sense is having great difficulty in understanding how you reached this position.”
Tony Robinson, board chairman, said: “This trust started its life with a millstone around its neck. That was a constant theme of our financial reporting. It has got worse.
“One of the reasons for the increase in debt is the increase in patient activity. The prescribing bill has got higher and the number of emergency admissions to Ipswich Hospital has been far higher than we would like.”
He added: “We have not been funded at the right level for the patient activity that was taking place. At every meeting since our first meeting that was our financial position.
“We have asked for support from the strategic health authority. That support has not been as forthcoming as we would have liked.
“Our painful financial recovery plan, being discussed for more than a year, has to be accelerated as we have not had as much time as we would have liked.”