Health cuts could be stopped

HEALTH chiefs forcing massive cutbacks on Suffolk could be stopped in their tracks, The Evening Star can reveal today.The ray of hope has emerged after councillors gave the strongest indication yet that they are going to ask Patricia Hewitt to step in to stop the closures.

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HEALTH chiefs forcing massive cutbacks on Suffolk could be stopped in their tracks, The Evening Star can reveal today.

The ray of hope has emerged after councillors gave the strongest indication yet that they are going to ask Patricia Hewitt to step in to stop the closures.

Suffolk's Health Scrutiny and Overview committee is made up of county, district and borough councillors and if it decides that the public consultation processes undertaken by health trusts were flawed it can refer them back to the secretary of state.


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Campaigners have already slammed the Changing for the Better consultation held by the Suffolk East PCTs but health bosses said it was satisfactory and, last week, approved decisions to close mental health services and community hospitals including the Bartlet in Felixstowe.

Suffolk West PCT has yet to make their decisions on the Modernising Healthcare in West Suffolk document, which contains proposals to close the Walnuttree Hospital in Sudbury. This will happen on February 22.

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If the Health Scrutiny and Overview Committee decide to refer the consultations back to Patricia Hewitt, and she agrees they were flawed, it could see the PCTs forced to start them all over again.

The Evening Star spoke to 12 of the 15 members of the committee - three were unavailable for comment - and, while none of them would state definitively whether they would be voting to send the consultations back, there were some strong indications that this may be the case.

Peter Beer, a county councillor for Great Cornard and a Sudbury town councillor, said: “I'm very concerned for the future of the Walnuttree Hospital in Sudbury and I would do anything that would help to keep it open.

“If referring the consultation process back could help us have a community hospital then I'm all for it, however I can't say at this stage whether I think the consultation was actually flawed as I haven't been through all of the paper work yet.”

Ben Redsell, county councillor for Woodbridge, said: “I have not made my mind up yet. A lot will depend on the details that come back from the Suffolk East PCTs.

“They have talked about the questions in the consultation document being biased against them. I want to know how much weighting they've put on that bias and whether they are ignoring a legitimate concern because they expected it to be biased.

“At the moment I'm minded to refer both consultations back but I want to see more detail before I make a final decision.”

The committee members are being taken on a tour of all the under-threat facilities by PCT bosses on February 9.

They will meet at Endeavour House, Suffolk County Council's headquarters, on February 28 to make their decision.

The Health Scrutiny and Overview Committee is comprised of eight county councillors and a district/borough councillor from each of the districts/boroughs in Suffolk.

Their role is to oversee health issues in the county and raise any concerns they may have.

If they decide either of the consultation processes that have taken place have been flawed they can refer these to the secretary of state. They can only refer the process, not the proposals within them.

If Patricia Hewitt agrees the processes were flawed she can ask the PCTs to do them again.

In line with guidance from the Cabinet Office, both the Suffolk East PCTs and the Suffolk West PCTs had their consultations independently analysed.

Suffolk West enlisted experts from the University of East Anglia to do this. Suffolk East employed a consultancy firm called Clear.

The results of the independent analysis found the consultations to be satisfactory.

Peter Beer, county councillor for Great Cornard, said: “If referring the consultation process back could help us have a community hospital [in Sudbury] then I'm all for it.”

Timothy Marks, county councillor for Haverhill, said: “I do not believe the west Suffolk consultation process was in any way adequate. I feel it was more or less presenting us with a fait accompli.”

Frank Warby, county councillor for Eastgate and Moreton Hall, said: “I have deep concerns about what's happening in this county and the decision I make will be with the people's interests at heart.”

Graham Newman, county councillor for Felixstowe, said: “I still feel we don't really know exactly how many people will be available in the home care teams they talk about and I am concerned that, with Ipswich Hospital closing beds as well, there will be problems with capacity.”

Ben Redsell, county councillor for Woodbridge, said: “At the moment I'm minded to refer both back but I want to see more detail before I make a final decision.”

Michael Miller, a Babergh district councillor, said: “My inclination is to propose to the committee that they escalate this as high as it can go but I have an open mind at the moment.”

Malcolm Cherry, county councillor for Oulton, said: “I don't want to say that I've made my mind up until I've read the paper but I'm not happy with what I'm hearing.

“I feel there are too many decisions being forced through too quickly.”

Trevor Beckwith, a St Edmundsbury district councillor. No comment.

Derrick Haley, a Mid Suffolk district councillor. No comment.

Susan Vincent, a Forest Heath district councillor. No comment.

Robert Niblett, a Waveney district councillor. No comment.

Jane Hore, chairman of the Health Scrutiny and Overview Committee and a county councillor for Lowestoft South. No comment.

Inga Lockington, county councillor for St Margaret's and Westgate, Ipswich. Unavailable

Jane Chambers, Ipswich borough councillor. Unavailable

Gordon Laing, Suffolk Coastal district councillor. Unavailable.

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