'We will fight to save hospital'

FURIOUS civic leaders are calling for a major public protest over plans for stringent health service cuts which will leave a growing market town with no hospital beds.

FURIOUS civic leaders are calling for a major public protest over plans for stringent health service cuts which will leave a growing market town with no hospital beds.

Residents in Sudbury are in uproar after the Suffolk West Primary Care Trust (PCT) announced it wants to close the town's 68-bed Walnuttree Hospital as part of a controversial financial recovery package designed to clears its debts.

The PCT also wants to pull the plug on plans to introduce up to 30 inpatient beds at the new Sudbury hospital, due to open in 2007 as a replacement for the ageing Walnuttree site.

Outpatient services at both Walnuttree and the town's other hospital, St Leonard's, are also under threat of closure because the PCT wants to centralise many such services, most likely to the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, which is also facing major cuts.

If the controversial plans are approved as expected next week, Sudbury would be left with no hospital services until 2007 at the earliest, and even then the town will have no inpatient beds.

Angry civic leaders are now urging the public to band together to take part in as many public protests as possible.

Most Read

Town mayor Lesley Ford-Platt said: "The situation is just absolutely outrageous, this is no way to run a health service.

"If these cuts go ahead, local health services will go into meltdown, waiting lists will get longer, people will not get the places in hospitals they so desperately need, operations will be cancelled and the quality of care available to people across west Suffolk will be in serious decline.

"I call on the people of Sudbury to take part in and organise as many public protests as possible to show we are not prepared to let these astonishing proposals go ahead."

Richard Kemp, Suffolk county councillor for Long Melford, is calling for a public inquiry into the situation and says managers at the PCT should be forced to stand down.

"I feel the community deserves an explanation over who has caused this tremendous problem," he said. "Someone has to be accountable."

And town councillor Nick Irwin said: "We must fight this every step of the way. We just cannot allow this to happen as the consequences are unthinkable.

"This situation is not Sudbury's fault, so why should we pay the price and be left with virtually no health facilities at all? People are going to suffer and they won't get the standard of care they need."

Staff at Walnuttree are devastated by the latest developments, having fought so hard just months ago, alongside the EADT, to save the hospital from closure due to fire risks.

Hospital porter, Michael Mitchell, who led the campaign to London, said: "We have worked out nearly 70,000 patients a year use Walnuttree and St Leonard's, and that does not even include inpatients.

"All those people would be forced to travel to the West Suffolk Hospital for those services, which we estimate would create an extra million road journeys between Sudbury and Bury.

"The West Suffolk Hospital would be put in a position where it would be impossible to cope with all the extra pressures.

"We are now in the process of arranging wide-scale protests, which we hope will be bigger than anything seen in this town before and we urge the public to back us in any way they can."

A public meeting has now been called at Sudbury town hall next Wednesday, starting at 7pm.

Anybody who wants to support the staff at Walnuttree in their battle can contact Michael Mitchell on 07870 493966.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter