Campaigners call on Hewitt for action

ALL eyes are on health secretary Patricia Hewitt today as under-threat community hospitals were given a last-minute lifeline.Plans to close two community hospitals in east Suffolk and reduce beds in another were referred to the secretary of state by Suffolk's health scrutiny committee, after they decided approving them would be detrimental to the health of the county's population.

ALL eyes are on health secretary Patricia Hewitt today as under-threat community hospitals were given a last-minute lifeline.

Plans to close two community hospitals in east Suffolk and reduce beds in another were referred to the secretary of state by Suffolk's health scrutiny committee, after they decided approving them would be detrimental to the health of the county's population.

Until now, Ms Hewitt has been happy to turn a blind eye to Suffolk's NHS crisis but the decision means she will have to look in detail at the problems being faced.

The committee rode to the rescue of Suffolk's health service by voting by a majority of ten to one to send the East Suffolk Primary Care Trust's plans to Ms Hewitt, at yesterday's meeting at Suffolk County Council's headquarters in Russell Road.


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It gives the Bartlet in Felixstowe, Hartismere hospital in Eye and Aldeburgh Hospital a temporary reprieve as all moves to close beds or building will have to be put on hold.

Campaigners reacted to the news with jubilation.

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Roy Gray, chairman of the Save the Felixstowe Hospitals group, said: “I am absolutely delighted with the decision and can only hope the minister will give us her full attention now.

“It's great that we've got this far as it gives us time to think about what we are going to do next. The committee have made the right decision for the people of Suffolk.”

Mike Ninnmey, district councillor for Felixstowe, said: “The scrutiny committee has done the job that they were elected to do, which is look after the interests of the community of east Suffolk.

“Hopefully, the secretary of state will look more widely at the situation and do something about the debt problem as well.”

Jacqui Martin, chief executive of Suffolk Carers, a support organisation for carers, was more cautious about the news.

She said: “If it ensures that we have more time to plan services and meet the needs of family carers then it's a good thing, but I have a feeling that any delays may impact on services and initiatives that we have at the moment.”

Martin Royal, of the Suffolk East PCTs, said they would have to reconsider their financial position in the light of the decision but stressed it was too early to say whether it will affect other services.

Eight appeals of this kind have been made to the Secretary of State since October 2004. None of them have been successful in getting decisions overturned.

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