Hewitt breaks silence over Suffolk NHS

PATRICIA Hewitt today broke her silence over Suffolk's NHS crisis but her words will be of little comfort to those hoping she may step in and save community hospitals.

PATRICIA Hewitt today broke her silence over Suffolk's NHS crisis but her words will be of little comfort to those hoping she may step in and save community hospitals.

Speaking exclusively to the Evening Star, she admitted to a lack of detailed knowledge of the cuts to mental health services, and insisted the real decision-making should be done by local health trusts.

Refusing to be drawn on whether she would be saving the Bartlet and Hartismere hospitals she said: “I will be looking at it as quickly as I can.

“I'm talking a matter of weeks, certainly not months. My own officials are just pulling together all the background information.”

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She stressed there would be no magic lifeline for Suffolk's health trusts when it comes to paying back their £30m debts.

She said: “We have written a very big cheque for the NHS and it's going to get bigger again next year, but it's not a blank cheque. “Organisations have to learn to live within their budget.

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“We need to do it quickly because there are a number of examples from the past where organisations have committed themselves to a recovery plan and never delivered.

“When one organisation overspends then another organisation has to underspend, that's why it's absolutely essential that we get the deficits under control.”

When asked if she felt this approach gave trusts time to ensure that appropriate community services were in place, Ms Hewitt was evasive - preferring to shift responsibility back to the PCTs.

She said: “That's a matter for the local NHS. I'm not going to pretend I can sit here in London and make detailed decisions on every part of an organisation.

“These decisions are much better made locally, where people really know what the needs are.”

She was also vague when it came to discussing details of closures of mental health services in the county. A number of clubhouses and the Hollies garden centre are being run down, but she appeared to be unaware of their plight.

She said: “I don't know the details of all the different local provision in terms of mental health.

“It's up to the local NHS community to look at the provision they are making and make sure it is what's best for these patients, within the available resources.”

Ms Hewitt played down recent reports of more than 7,000 jobs being cut across the NHS nationally.

She said: “Actual redundancies, although they are necessary in some places, are quite a small proportion of what's happening. Most of these so called 'job-cuts' are nothing of the kind.

“We expect every hospital to look at how it's providing services. We can't say to the NHS 'carry on working in old-fashioned ways' when we've asked the public to pay higher contributions to fund it. In the future we will have fewer staff in our acute hospitals but there will be more staff in the community.”

Are you satisfied with Ms Hewitt's responses? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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