Hospital battle all but over

HEALTH secretary Patricia Hewitt has today made the clearest indication yet that the fight to save community hospitals in east Suffolk is all but over.

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HEALTH secretary Patricia Hewitt has today made the clearest indication yet that the fight to save community hospitals in east Suffolk is all but over.

Despite the decisions being referred to her for approval she has once again turned the focus back to local trusts, telling them to sort their own problems out.

Speaking about the county's health crisis she said: “I am very aware, of course, that in Suffolk there are some extremely controversial proposals to close or reduce the size of local or community hospitals.


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“We set out very clearly in the White Paper in January, the expectation that in future much more care is going to be delivered much closer to people's home - sometimes in their own homes, in local health centres, and in community hospitals.”

Although these plans should currently be being reviewed by her, after being referred to her by the county's health scrutiny committee, she added: “These are decisions which are best made by the local NHS, and in particular by the PCTs.”

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She reiterated the argument that community hospitals should be moving with the times and that it was inappropriate to keep outdated buildings open.

She said: “I have made it clear that there are places - for instance, a cottage hospital in very old buildings, in some cases a workhouse building - that are simply unfit for 21st century care.”

Roy Gray, chairman of the Save the Felixstowe Hospitals Action Group, said: “Her comments are exactly what we have come to expect.

“It's like a game of tennis, the ball keeps going backwards and forwards over the net. If you talk to the PCTs they blame the government, but the government always throw it back to the local trusts.

“Some people might see her comments as a green light for the Bartlet to be closed but we will continue fighting.”

Ms Hewitt's came after she and Tony Blair held a summit with health trusts to talk about the NHS's escalating financial crisis which has now seen more than 7,000 jobs axed across the country.

She said there was no question of the Department of Health stepping in to bail out debt-ridden trusts.

“We are not sitting on a secret pot of money. The money is all out there with the NHS, and there has been a very substantial increase, over nine per cent in cash terms, of money being given this year.”

Suffolk's debt currently stands at more than £33m.

Do you think the Bartlet's fate is sealed? 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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