Could NHS move east?

FELIXSTOWE: Could this become NHS�-by-the-seaside?

FELIXSTOWE: Could this become NHS�-by-the-seaside?

The Bartlet Hospital's panoramic seaviews and salt air had a recuperative impact on thousands of patients, and perhaps in future it could provide a calmer decision-making environment for health bosses.

With little progress being made on the sale and redevelopment of the former convalescent care centre, health chiefs have admitted they are looking at “alternative options” for its future.

At present they are not talking openly about what these might be - but what a terrific headquarters the hospital and its sizeable annexe, part of the Bath Hotel torched by suffragettes, would make for NHS Suffolk.

There has been huge controversy over its current HQ at Rushbrook House, Bramford, which cost �300,000-plus a year in rent, plus �100,000 a year for parking land and a minibus and driver to take 65 staff the short journey between their cars and work, plus the recent purchase of a �475,000 farm for more parking - all paid for by taxpayers' money.

The main advantage of the Bartlet would be that it is already owned by NHS Suffolk, though cynics might say it too doesn't have enough parking for the primary care trust's growing staff, which has doubled in two years to 190.

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In a letter, Martin Royal, director of business development and external relations, said: “I can confirm that I am now examining alternative options for the Bartlet Hospital in light of the time taken to conclude the sale of the Bartlet by our preferred developer.

“Since this is still subject to commercial in confidence issues I cannot share the detail at this stage, suffice to say the interests of the Bartlet Hospital, the local community and NHS Suffolk remain our focus.”

It is nearly three years since the trust agreed to sell the property to the PJ Livesey Group for conversion it into luxury apartments.

At a recent meeting with Suffolk Coastal planners, the company was told its latest plans - 46 flats, including using the listed building's roof space and basement, plus demolishing the annexe - were not acceptable.

What should the Bartlet become? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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Campaigners' views:

Roy Gray, chairman of Felixstowe Save Our Hospitals Action Group, said: “The community just want to see the Bartlet Hospital being used and not left sitting there neglected. We would hate anything awful to happen to that building because it is an important part of our town.”

Councillor Mike Ninnmey said: “I think to have to three years for a design for the development of that site must be hugely disappointing for NHS Suffolk - that is a lost three years. That building was not closed on clinical needs but financial needs and I believe the health care it gave is still needed.”

The Bartlet Bequest Action Group, led by Barry Farr, is still hoping it can find the finance and put together a new bid to run the Bartlet as a respite and convalescent care centre, with complimentary health facilities, so any elderly patient could obtain all the medical care they needed before returning home and without having to travel.

FASTFACTS: Bartlet

Creation of The Bartlet Hospital was Dr John Bartlet's dying wish on 27 May 1917.

Born in Ipswich and educated at Ipswich School and London University, Dr Bartlet, whose father and grandfather had been surgeons, was firmly convinced him people would get better far quicker if they were away from a busy hospital and, particularly women, not plunged straight back into a home environment.

He left �250,000 for purchase of land and construction of the hospital, leaving it to the trustees of his will to decide the details.

The hospital finally opened in 1926 on Felixstowe seafront on the site of Bath Hotel, destroyed by suffragettes, and an old Martello Tower.

Dr Bartlet, 86 when he died, was honorary surgeon and governor, served as mayor of Ipswich and a magistrate, and later president, of the East Suffolk and Ipswich Hospital.

The hospital closed in January 2008 - and since then has been standing empty, surrounded by metal fencing.

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