Felixstowe patients face 24-mile trip

MANY patients in Felixstowe needing night-time emergency treatment will be forced to make a 24-mile round trip to Ipswich in future, it was confirmed today.

MANY patients in Felixstowe needing night-time emergency treatment will be forced to make a 24-mile round trip to Ipswich in future, it was confirmed today.

Campaigners had expected the resort's minor injuries unit (MIU) to close, but not so soon – while health officials said the decision was due to staff shortages.

As reported in last night's Evening Star, the MIU at the Bartlet Hospital will no longer be available from Saturday between 8.30pm and 7am.

Suffolk East Primary Care Trust said today in future anyone needing treatment at night must call NHS Direct for advice, or their doctor's surgery to be put through to the out of hours service, or go to the Riverside Clinic MIU, in Ipswich, which opens April 1.

People can also visit accident and emergency at Ipswich Hospital – though the PCT has been trying to cut the number of unnecessary visits to A&E, encouraging people to use the minor injuries unit instead.

It will effect people with a range of needs, including asthma sufferers, those wanting suspicious chest pains checked, or needing medication or a wound or cut dealt with, and many other minor emergencies. If they cannot travel to Ipswich, many may call ambulances.

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A PCT spokeswoman said: “Concern for maintaining safe levels of patient care, in the light of several qualified staff resigning from the service, has led the Suffolk East Primary Care Trusts to take the decision reluctantly to close the unit earlier than planned.

“A survey of people using the service undertaken during November and December 2005, showed that less than seven people a week used the service from midnight to 7am.”

A daytime service – from 7am to 8.30pm – at Felixstowe General Hospital will continue unchanged.

Felixstowe Save Our Hospitals action group member Peter Mellor said: “It's a sad day because for a town as big as Felixstowe we really want to be organising a 24-hour MIU if at all possible.

“I know the number of people that use the unit at the Bartlet at night has been very small but what we don't know is how many people from Felixstowe went to Ipswich Hospital because they thought they would get better care or didn't realise the facilities were available nearer to home.

“It's a real shame because it was an important part of the hospital service and for those that will now have to travel to Ipswich at night it is bad news.”

NHS Direct can be contacted on 0845 46 47.

What do you think of the night-time closure of the minor injuries unit at Felixstowe? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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