Walnuttree consultation 'absurd' - Yeo

A SUFFOLK MP last night called consultation documents on the closure of Sudbury's Walnuttree Hospital “absurd” which ran directly counter to Government policy.

A SUFFOLK MP last night called consultation documents on the closure of Sudbury's Walnuttree Hospital “absurd” which ran directly counter to Government policy.

South Suffolk Tory Tim Yeo, speaking in a parliamentary debate he initiated on the crisis in the county's health service, claimed the former Victorian workhouse's closure would cause some of his patients to suffer and possibly die.

“Ramming through bed closures by alleging that none of the patients who have used them in the past will in future ever need to be treated anywhere other than home is absurd,” declared Mr Yeo in a late night sitting of the Commons.

“Some patients will be inappropriately left at home to suffer, or even die, without proper community support.”

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Others, as the West Suffolk NHS Trust had admitted, would have to be accommodated within the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds “thus aggravating the problem of bed blocking and causing longer waiting lists, entirely contrary to Government policy.”

He derided the “seriously flawed” consultation programme on closures, which had been forced by rising NHS debts in the county, especially as an outline business case had proposed, with widespread local support, a model of care that included 32 new in-patient beds in a new hospital to replace Walnuttree.

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Mr Yeo said that days before the General Election, Sudbury was assured that the new in-patient hospital would be built, prior to the closure of the old site.

Kevin Craig, his Labour opponent at the election, had even quoted in his address to voters the Chancellor Gordon Brown, who congratulated him for his role in this “successful campaign.”

However, with the General Election out of the way and a new Trust chief executive in place, these promises “were suddenly cast aside.”

A month later, the Trust dropped its bombshell. Walnuttree was to be closed after all.

Mr Yeo said: “No replacement in-patient beds would be provided - just a glorified GP surgery. Even the in-patient services provided at Walnuttree were mostly to be transferred to West Suffolk Hospital, 20 miles away.”

He added: “There isn't any shred of justification for these proposals. They will harm the population they are supposed to serve.

“They contradict Government policy - understandably residents now have little faith in the integrity of the consultation process.”

West Suffolk MP Richard Spring said the plight facing Suffolk was caused because it received £223 per capita spending less than others parts of England.

Replying for the Government, junior health minister Liam Byrne catalogued the extra services funded by Labour since 1997 and said West Suffolk had been given an extra £110m since 2003, of which £49 had been spent in Mr Yeo's constituency.

He added that the area would be given £86.5m more between now and the financial year 2007-08, a higher percentage than other parts of the country.

Mr Byre, who did not directly answer the criticisms of the Walnuttree closure, insisted that the 20th century model for NHS services which targeted patients did not meet the advances in medical care and stressed that Labour's modernisation was now providing the most appropriate care for patients.

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