GPs fears over health crisis

GPs in Suffolk today expressed concerns over the grave financial situation facing the county's NHS.They issued a stark warning patients will suffer if proposed changes go ahead.

GPs in Suffolk today expressed concerns over the grave financial situation facing the county's NHS.

They issued a stark warning patients will suffer if proposed changes go ahead.

In the wake of the news that beds will be reduced at the Bartlet and Felixstowe General, Bury St Edmunds, Aldeburgh, Newmarket, and Sudbury, the GPs said it cannot fail to bring about a decline in patient care. The closures will have knock-on effects across the county by clogging up Ipswich Hospital.

Dr Simon Ball, of Church Farm surgery in Aldeburgh, said: "We are very concerned about the loss of the beds at Aldeburgh Hospital and what this will mean.

"If we have people that we would've liked to treat locally we'll have no choice but to send them to Ipswich. This is bad for them and their families, bad for Ipswich Hospital and bad for the NHS because it costs more.

"When you've got people that can be treated locally, why increase the pressure on Ipswich?"

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Dr Ball also expressed fears there will not be adequate support for people in the community.

He said: "Half the reason there are delayed discharges in the hospital is that we can't get the carers in the community. They need to do that first before they start shutting beds.

"Having adequate facilities to treat people who are just that little bit more needy before they go back in to their homes is very beneficial. GPs and nurses in the community are going to be more stretched trying to keep people at home when we'd like them to be having a bit of extra care.

"It's very intensive to keep people at home and the further you get from a major centre, the less people there are around to help."

Dr John Havard, of the Lambsale Meadow surgery in Saxmundham, agreed closing the community beds could end up costing the PCTs more money.

He said: "Cottage hospitals provide relatively cheap care compared to district generals. Where people may not need all the expertise of a district hospital they will be better in a community hospital setting.

"Shutting beds in community hospitals is a short term gain but these patients have to go somewhere. "There is no way they are going to be able to be looked after in their own homes because there are not the district nurses to cope.

"There is inevitably going to be a deterioration in service. It's bound to get worse, you can't get round that.

"There is obviously an acute short term panic and the way to get short term money saving is by firing people or closing beds or hospitals. You might be able to reappoint people but once you close a hospital and sell off the building you cannot open it again. There's no going back."

An Ipswich-based GP who did not wish to be named also expressed her concerns but urged people not to panic.

She said: "Obviously if units such as Felixstowe General are shut then that may push minor injuries on to GPs in Felixstowe. If this delays patient treatment, that will obviously have an impact on patients.

"We don't know what will happen until it happens and there is a possibility that what comes out might be better, or different but that's not necessarily worse. If it causes us to be more effective or more efficient then that is good."