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Hospital under threat in funding crisis

PUBLISHED: 00:03 17 June 2005 | UPDATED: 05:56 02 March 2010

ONE of Suffolk's biggest towns is today in grave danger of losing its hospital to cut the health service's debts.

Supporters of Felixstowe General have been told "serious consideration" must be given to closing the out-patient unit to help pay for the £18 million owed.

ONE of Suffolk's biggest towns is today in grave danger of losing its hospital to cut the health service's debts.

Supporters of Felixstowe General have been told "serious consideration" must be given to closing the out-patient unit to help pay for the £18 million owed.

Today outraged campaigners were staggered by the "absolutely disgusting" suggestion the hospital could go - and vowed to fight to keep it open.

Furious Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer pledged to immediately meet officials from the Strategic Heath Authority (SHA) and also the Health Minister.

Mr Gummer said closing the hospital would be "utterly unacceptable" and believed the truth had been kept from the public for politically-motivated reasons.

"I want to know how we can be told just before the election there are sensible and reasonable plans to refurbish and improve the hospital, and as soon as the election is over we are told there is no money and we must consider closing it," he said.

"I want to know how they can make specific promises to me and the people of Felixstowe and then go back on that word - how can we have confidence in them and the systems in place?

"This is the third change of plan in 18 months."

Real uncertainty over the hospital began to emerge yesterday after a meeting of a panel to consider its future.

Retired GP Alan Wimhurst, who represents the League of Friends of Felixstowe Hospitals on the panel, said the meeting had been told the Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) had until June 21 to show how they would get rid of their £18m debts.

"The effect of the savings that are needed is that no money is to be spent on the conversion of Felixstowe General at all and, in fact, it must be considered whether it should be closed and disposed of," he said.

"The 24 out-patient clinics could be dispersed to GP surgeries around the town, while the health visitors would have to go, and also the district nurses - it would be mayhem.

"It is an acute and desperate situation and I think Felixstowe is about to lose out very badly. The local managers are pretty miserable about it but they have no option."

Dr Wimhurst had supported the PCT's proposals to turn the hospital in Constable Road into an out-patient unit with extra clinics and services and believed it was an excellent solution for the growing community.

Jeremy Peters, head of communications for the East Suffolk PCTs, said the trusts had been asked last week by the SHA's new management team to review their financial recovery plan by June 21.

"It wants the PCTs to take an even more robust approach to the situation. At this moment the review is taking place and no decision has been taken about Felixstowe General and we would be entirely open about it," he said.


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