Wait continues for health cuts decison

HEALTH campaigners last night spoke of their frustration as they wait to hear whether a raft of money saving cuts to health services in east Suffolk will be passed by the Health Secretary.

HEALTH campaigners last night spoke of their frustration as they wait to hear whether a raft of money saving cuts to health services in east Suffolk will be passed by the Health Secretary.

Suffolk's Health Scrutiny Committee referred Suffolk East Primary Care Trusts' (PCTs) proposals to Patricia Hewitt on February 28 - but the MP has yet to deliver her ruling almost five months later.

And, if no decision is revealed before Parliament breaks for the summer this week the wait for news will be cruelly extended into the winter months.

The controversial plans, if passed, will see the closure of the Bartlet Hospital in Felixstowe and Hartismere Hospital in Eye, as well as 20 beds at Aldeburgh Hospital.


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They were drawn up as the PCTs desperately fought to reduce a multi-million pound mountain of debt - a situation which has crippled much of the county's health system.

And last night, as the wait continues, one campaigner revealed that a judicial review is being considered should the Health Secretary's ruling go against them.

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Roy Gray, chairman of Save Felixstowe Hospital Group, said: “It's frustrating not only from our point of view but also for the staff.

“Obviously, they're on tenterhooks as to whether they are going to have jobs in the future. They don't know what they're doing, and they're anxious.

“All the love and the joy of working down there is being slowly ebbed away. One wonders what will happen. It's a long, drawn out process, and we just need to know.”

Mr Gray added: “We could go to judicial review and that's something that we would have to think about.

“It's something that we are reviewing ourselves - I'm not saying that we definitely are going to do it, we're just looking at the possibility.

“If we were to do it, it would be for the future - if the hospital is closed it's gone and it's not coming back.”

Cornelius Coates, chairman of Ipswich Patient and Public Involvement Forum, echoed Mr Gray's concerns.

He added: “We all feel like we're stuck in a limbo. We want to plan, think of a way forward and address real issues, but we're left in limbo.

“We are all going to be extraordinarily disappointed if this decision goes the wrong way, but on the other hand we really need to know.

“It's just not on - they set time scales for us which they enforce with vigour, yet seem to be cavalier when it applies to them.

“Maybe the delay is not bad news because it's really being given thorough consideration - maybe there's a glimmer of hope that it won't happen.

“Hopefully, there will be something in it for us, but I'm not optimistic.”

A spokesman for Suffolk East PCTs said: “Suffolk East PCTs are eager to hear the results of the Secretary of State's consideration of our proposals but we understand they have to go through due process and we whole heartedly support that.

“We hope for an early response because we believe our proposals will bring more and better health care to the people of east Suffolk.”

Last night, a Department of Health spokeswoman said: “The Secretary of State for Health is considering the referral from the Suffolk Health Scrutiny Council and will respond in due course.”

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