'Give us some answers' protesters' plea

HEALTH chiefs are still failing to give answers over the costs of changes to medical services if community hospitals close, campaigners claimed today.Seven officers from the Suffolk East Primary Care Trust met Felixstowe town councillors in private to try to explain why they need to axe the town's Bartlet convalescent and rehabilitation unit.

HEALTH chiefs are still failing to give answers over the costs of changes to medical services if community hospitals close, campaigners claimed today.

Seven officers from the Suffolk East Primary Care Trust met Felixstowe town councillors in private to try to explain why they need to axe the town's Bartlet convalescent and rehabilitation unit.

But councillors were still not satisfied - and five months since the closure was indicated do not have answers to some of their key questions.

Councillor Mike Ninnmey , a member of the Save Felixstowe Hospitals action group, said they were still unhappy.

“I don't think anyone was satisfied by what the PCT officers were saying,” he said.

“They tell us that health services in Felixstowe cost £3.3 million a year and of this one-third is to be cut - basically the £1.2m cost of the Bartlet.

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“They cannot tell us, but we calculate that from their figures the Bartlet with its present 25 beds costs £121 per bed per day to stay open. When it had 50 beds this was £91.

“What they still cannot tell us is how much their care-in-the-community package is going to cost - they just don't know. That is ridiculous.

“Is it going to cost less than £121 per day to look after each of these Bartlet patients in their own home by sending in carers, or not?”

The PCT, which has debts of millions of pounds to clear, says the Bartlet will not be needed in future because people will go home from hospital much earlier to be looked after by travelling care teams.

Tim Yeo, Conservative MP for Suffolk South, has asked Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt if it was government policy “to close community hospitals and force patients to travel 40 miles to over-stretched general hospitals instead.”

He also questioned whether it was government policy “for primary care trusts to issue grossly misleading consultation papers which omit costing of replacement services; and to withdraw existing hospital-based services before even the most rudimentary community alternatives are in place.”

To date Ms Hewitt has received 5,000 letters from MPs and members of the public and also six related parliamentary questions have been asked.

Consultation over the changes to health services ends next Wednesday. November 30. The PCT said it had received lots of comments and welcomed more before the deadline.

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