Balancing the books is top priority
SOME health services in east Suffolk could cease temporarily in the next few months – even before final decisions on the future are made.That was the warning today from Carole Taylor-Brown, chief executive of the Suffolk East Primary Care Trust, who said the financial situation faced by the region's health service was worsening but insisted the books must be balanced.
SOME health services in east Suffolk could cease temporarily in the next few months – even before final decisions on the future are made.
That was the warning today from Carole Taylor-Brown, chief executive of the Suffolk East Primary Care Trust, who said the financial situation faced by the region's health service was worsening but insisted the books must be balanced.
She admitted a ward of the Bartlet Hospital at Felixstowe had already closed and said the PCT was facing a cash-flow crisis.
More than 500 people packed into Felixstowe's Elizabeth Orwell Hotel to give their views on the proposals to close the Bartlet, make changes to Felixstowe General, reduce beds at Aldeburgh and cut mental health services.
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Mrs Taylor-Brown said to those at the meeting: "We are listening and we are concerned about what you are saying but we have to balance our books.
"We have no choice in that matter – we have a clear statutory responsibility to balance our books and the secretary of state has made it very clear what the situation is for us.
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"The board may have to consider the temporary cessation of services over the next few months.
"Our cash position is worsening. We have staff, we have creditors and we must balance our books."
One ward has been closed at the Bartlet and more staff can not be employed because if the hospital closed these would be made redundant, incurring more costs.
The trust believes the new way of providing services – discharging people earlier from hospital to be looked after at home by teams of travelling carers, and work to prevent people being admitted to acute hospitals – would provide better health care and cut costs.
The service changes had been intended to be brought in over time but the financial situation meant they now had to be done faster.
Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer, who chaired the meeting, said the biggest fear of many people was that health care costs were being transferred to social services and council tax.
However, the county council was already overspent on social services and could not spend more on care-at-home because the government would then cap it.
District councillor Malcolm Minns spoke out against the consultation process and said it had drifted further and further into fantasyland.
He said: "Everyone in the audience knows it's not for the better, cannot be for the better and will not be for the better for many years to come."
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PROTESTERS against the cuts made their views known peacefully outside the meeting by greeting Suffolk East PCT with placards and banners and handing out leaflets.
But the noisiest protest came inside the hall as pensioner Charles Dewen interrupted, shouting at the panel of experts to put his point across.
As Ipswich Hospital chief executive Andrew Reed tried to explain changes to the hospital's services, Mr Dewen interjected, shouting about how his wife Eve had left Ipswich with MRSA and the Bartlet Hospital had saved her life with its care.
Despite repeated requests from Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer to sit down and be quiet, he refused to stop shouting – until Mr Gummer threatened to suspend the meeting.