Felixstowe health services under-used

EXPENSIVE equipment is being left hugely under-used at a hospital because thousands of patients are ignoring it.Health bosses are baffled over why so many Felixstowe and Trimley people go to Ipswich Hospital for minor injuries and clinics rather than using the hospital facilities on their doorstep.

EXPENSIVE equipment is being left hugely under-used at a hospital because thousands of patients are ignoring it.

Health bosses are baffled over why so many Felixstowe and Trimley people go to Ipswich Hospital for minor injuries and clinics rather than using the hospital facilities on their doorstep.

They say at least 2,000 people each year go to accident and emergency at Heath Road rather than be treated quickly at Felixstowe General or Bartlet.

But the problem is not just patients unnecessarily taking themselves to Ipswich.

Talks are under way with the ambulance service to see why they do not always take people to Felixstowe for treatment, and also with Ipswich Hospital over why they insist on hundreds taking a 24-mile round trip for clinics which are available but virtually empty at Felixstowe.

East Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) joint clinical director Anne Taylor said the concerns of the PCT had been highlighted by the lack of use of the new night-time minor injuries unit at the Bartlet Hospital.

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The unit - needed because Felixstowe General is now an out-patient hospital and no longer staffed at night - had cost £30,000 to set up.

However, since December it had been used by an average of 0.4 people per night, between midnight and 7am.

"We have very expensive facilities sitting there not being used and still have quite considerable numbers of people taking themselves off to Ipswich Hospital and we are trying to understand why," said Mrs Taylor.

"It is something we are currently researching so we can find out what we can do to increase the use of the hospital.

"Some 2,000 people a year take themselves from Felixstowe to Ipswich for minor illnesses which could be treated at Felixstowe General and we need to unravel why this is happening."

Publicity campaigns had been held to promote the hospital and its services, and more signs put around the town. NHS Direct was also aware and advised people to use it.

The hospital ran a range of clinics but sometimes as few as two people a session were booked in for treatment, with many travelling to Ipswich instead for the same consultation.

"GPs refer patients to Ipswich Hospital but those patients are then not referred to Felixstowe General and instead booked in at Ipswich. We are working with the hospital now to see if we can change this," said Mrs Taylor.

"Not every appointment can take place at Felixstowe as sometimes specialist diagnostic equipment or other tests are needed which are not available."

n What do you think - have you been sent to Ipswich when you could have been treated at Felixstowe? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

HUGE debts facing health services in east Suffolk has led to proposals for a major facelift for Felixstowe's cherished Bartlet Hospital being shelved.

Eight months ago residents were told grants of up to £3 million could be gained from a NHS scheme to completely renovate and remodel the hospital.

It would ensure the Bartlet on Bath Hill would remain open for another 50 years and become a first-rate in-patient facility for the growing resort and its area.

Anne Taylor, joint clinical director for the East Suffolk PCTs, said the £3m project had been part of plans before the PCTs' management structure was changed and no firm details had been drawn up.

The size of the PCTs' debts and work now under way to improve the financial position meant priorities had been reviewed.

Recent work at the Bartlet had also revealed a full structural survey was needed before any major project was done. Asbestos and flooring problems had been found which had led to the temporary closure of a few beds.

REASSURANCES have been given that work to bring new and improved clinics to Felixstowe General Hospital will take place.

The PCT is still waiting to hear from regional health bosses over whether they will come up with the cash - probably around £164,000 - for the project.

But joint clinical director Anne Taylor assured Trimley St Martin parish councillors at their annual meeting the trust was still committed to the plans to make Felixstowe General a thriving out-patient unit for the peninsula.

"We want to make this unit work efficiently and effectively for the population of the area," she said.

Thanks to the Evening Star's Helping Our Children Christmas appeal, a children's minor injuries unit was being set up as part of the MIU.

The podiatry department is being moved in from the house next door, physio moved from the Bartlet annexe, a children's dental surgery being created, four clinics for services to be brought from Ipswich, speech therapy and audiology rooms, to go with the X-ray and ultrasound facilities.

Many services would be expanded to include specialist treatments - such as a falls clinics for elderly people suffering a fall, physio for upper limb injuries, or laser surgery in podiatry.

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