Final decision set to be made on future of orthopaedic surgery at Ipswich Hospital

PUBLISHED: 05:30 14 July 2020 | UPDATED: 07:39 14 July 2020

An artist's impression of what the new orthopaedic centre will look like in Colchester. Picture: ESNEFT

An artist's impression of what the new orthopaedic centre will look like in Colchester. Picture: ESNEFT


Health bosses are set to make a final decision on the future of orthopaedic surgery at Ipswich Hospital on Tuesday.

After months of consultations and discussions health chiefs will decide today whether or not to approve the plans for a new orthopaedic centre at Colchester Hospital.

If approved, elective orthopaedic surgery at Ipswich Hospital will come to an end.

What is proposed?

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt said he had done everything he could to stop the proposals going ahead Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONSIpswich MP Tom Hunt said he had done everything he could to stop the proposals going ahead Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

Under the proposals elective orthopaedic surgery for at Ipswich Hospital will be moved to Colchester Hospital, which is part of the same trust, ESNEFT.

Pre-assessments, outpatient appointments, diagnostic tests and rehabilitation – would continue to take place in Ipswich, as would emergency orthopaedic surgery.

How have we got to this point?

Discussions for a new centre for one of the ESNEFT sites have been in the pipeline for a year with the trust announcing that they would be looking for a new site in July 2019.

A consultation into the plans was held between February 11 and April 1 2020, with the public able to attend meetings until the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Results of the 12-week consultation revealed just 36% supported the move, while 64% were against it.

A petition launched last month against the plans has since attracted almost 10,000 signatures.

Despite these, the plans were still recommended for approval ahead of today’s meeting.

What are the arguments in favour of the decision?

Those in favour of the decision say it will improve patient outcomes across both hospitals and help to deal with long waiting times for treating patients.

In the notes for the agenda for today’s meeting, Dr Shane Gordon, director of strategy, innovation and research at ESNEFT said that the changes were necessary to improve waiting times.

“One of our key priorities as an ICS in Suffolk and North East Essex is to ensure that our patients have access to timely, high quality orthopaedic care,” said Dr Gordon.

“Although the quality of care at both hospitals is good, even excellent, the waiting times for surgery have deteriorated significantly over the last five years.

“Alongside this, the ICS remains committed to the vibrant future of Ipswich Hospital, serving the needs of our community.”

In a letter to this newspaper, hospital chief Nick Hulme and CCG head Dr Ed Garratt said that the decision would have only affected 3% of inpatient, day case and outpatient appointments for orthopaedic patients at Ipswich Hospital last year.

Colchester MP, Will Quince, has said previously that the moving of the centre to Colchester would help attract the best staff who were keen to work in a big unit.

What are the arguments against the decision?

Those against the move say that it will lead to longer travel distances for patients and visitors as well as concerns that Ipswich will be the only major hospital in the area without this service.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has been one of the most vocal critics of the plans, arguing that they were not in the interest of his constituents.

Mr Hunt said he had spoken to hospital chiefs on Monday morning to reiterate his concerns on the proposal but said there was little more he could do.

“It’s going to be hard for it to be stopped,” said Mr Hunt.

“I’m not particularly optimistic.”

Mr Hunt held an adjournment debate in the House of Commons last week to raise his concerns.

“I felt I used what powers were at my disposal,” said Mr Hunt.

“I don’t know what there is left. It’s not a decision I am happy with.”

Mr Hunt and Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere sent two cross party letters calling on health chiefs to stop the plans.

Mr Ellesmere added in a recent column that he felt Ipswich Hospital had “deteriorated” since its merger with Colchester two years ago.

When will the decision be made?

An extraordinary meeting of the Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG will be held between 12pm and 2pm.

The meeting will be formally presented with the petition before discussions are held on the orthopaedic centre.

Questions from members of the public will be heard, but limited to three minutes each before the CCG go into further discussions.

Those wishing to take part in the meeting can do so via Zoom.

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