Hewitt urged to make quick decision

HEALTH minister Patricia Hewitt is today being urged to make a final decision on the future of Felixstowe's closure-threatened Bartlet Hospital as quickly as possible.

HEALTH minister Patricia Hewitt is today being urged to make a final decision on the future of Felixstowe's closure-threatened Bartlet Hospital as quickly as possible.

No-one knows how long the process will take once it reaches the corridors of Westminster - and Primary Care Trust officials have said it could be five months or more before they hear the outcome.

That could threaten the £1 million refurbishment of Felixstowe General Hospital - which is scheduled to take place if the Bartlet closes - while leaving other services and potential changes in limbo, and staff worried about their futures.

But the county's health scrutiny committee, who referred decisions to close hospitals in Felixstowe and Eye to the health secretary, have set the Health Secretary a deadline of April 11 to respond.


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“The committee would be grateful if this matter could be dealt with as a matter of urgency, and if an initial response could be received by 11 April,” officials said in a letter to Ms Hewitt today.

“This is to prevent undue delay to the implementation of NHS plans if the referral is rejected, and to enable the secretary of state's initial response to inform the decisions of the Suffolk West Primary Care Trust Board, which is meeting to discuss similar issues on April 11.”

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In the letter the committee outline reasons why they feel they had no choice but to refer the decisions to the health secretary.

These include:

They do not have the support of the local community;

Neither the committee nor the local community have sufficient confidence that there will be enough beds in the community for people who have just come out of hospital.

The decisions have been rushed through with the primary purpose of saving money.

Neither the committee nor the local community have any confidence that the changes made to the original proposals will actually be implemented.

The increasing need for the PCT to save further money will make it even more unlikely that the proposals will be implemented in full.

The decisions are badly timed: the imminent reconfiguration of PCTs within Suffolk further reduces the committee's confidence that the new organisation will continue with the improvements to the original proposals promised by the existing PCT.

All Suffolk East PCTs' plans to close hospitals and replace them with new community facilities will be on hold until Ms Hewitt makes a final decision.

The health scrutiny committee's letter has also been copied to Carole Taylor-Brown and the Strategic Health Authority.

Once Patricia Hewitt has received the letter she will call for various briefings and may refer it to the Independent Review Panel (IRP) for an initial review.

Carole Taylor-Brown will be asked to send a response to the health scrutiny committee's claims to the secretary of state.

Once this has been done the PCTs will then receive a letter informing them of whether or not a full review is to take place.

There is no time limit on how long this will take.

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