Multi-million pound boost for Bartlet

GRANTS of up to £3 million could give Felixstowe's cherished Bartlet Hospital a major facelift to keep it open for decades to come, it was revealed today.

GRANTS of up to £3 million could give Felixstowe's cherished Bartlet Hospital a major facelift to keep it open for decades to come, it was revealed today.

Five years ago the hospital was faced with closure – and was only kept open after a hard-won campaign spearheaded by The Evening Star and its supporters.

The campaigners took their fight all the way to Whitehall where the Health Minister personally pledged that the hospital would be saved.

Now the building on Bath Hill is looking forward to a bright new future as Felixstowe's in-patient hospital.

Suffolk Coastal Primary Care Trust (PCT) outgoing chief executive Ana Selby assured residents the Bartlet's future was safe.

Current changes to the hospital – to create a smaller ward for convalescent and rehabilitation beds for Felixstowe area patients only, and a ward of beds operated by the resort's GPs – was only the first phase.

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The next stage would be to seek grants of between £2m and £3m from a NHS scheme to completely renovate and re-model the hospital.

"I am committed to making sure that we do what we said we are going to do here – we want to see the Bartlet still in use in another 50 years' time and people still enjoying its atmosphere and sea views," said Mrs Selby.

"I think we have to do this work in stages, slowly and take people with us to make them understand, rather than doing too much too soon."

Mrs Selby told a packed public meeting at St Felix Hall, Gainsborough Road, Felixstowe, that Felixstowe General Hospital's future was also secure.

It would become an out-patient centre with an expanded minor injuries unit, and a range of clinics. Talks were about to start with Ipswich Hospital about transferring clinics.

Work on the creation of the new wards at the Bartlet was going well and the impact was being carefully monitored.

The project will mean an overall reduction of 30 beds at the General and Bartlet. However, these are convalescent beds used by Ipswich people, who will in future have the new Ravenswood convalescent unit.

Mrs Selby said early indications were the reduction in beds had not made a difference. Patients were being moved from Ipswich to the Bartlet quicker and many patients were returning home earlier.

"We are improving the service by making sure people are not staying inappropriately in hospital too long," she said.

One key elements of the project is a new team able to give both social and health care to people returning home.

However, the meeting was told that recruiting staff was hard with many people preferring more flexible working arrangements and better pay offered elsewhere.

Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer said residents' concerns about how the home care would operate were genuine and the new arrangements needed constant monitoring. He would be asking the PCT for regular updates.

"I have been very worried about the future of the Bartlet and Felixstowe General because both have been in need of significant improvements," he said.

"I am very much in favour of the programme of work proposed and we need to press ahead. We need to make sure the Bartlet is as up to date as possible and if the NHS invests £3m in it, it is much less likely to close it.

"I want it to be true that in 50 years' time the people of Felixstowe can still be looked after in the same wonderful manner as now.

"We want the best services we can get and we need to keep the pressure on and work with the PCT to make sure that happens."

WEBLINK: www.suffolkcoastal-pct.nhs.uk

n What do you think of the plans for the General and Bartlet? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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FELIXSTOWE'S highly-valued minor injuries unit is to move – but only at nights.

With the General Hospital in Constable Road set to be an out-patient unit, it will be unmanned during the night, with all the staff then working at the Bartlet.

Primary Care Trust officials are committed to a 24-hour, seven days a week service in the town, but say so few people need the minor injuries unit at night it is not cost-effective to keep staff at the General in case someone should need it.

Outgoing chief executive Ana Selby said a new way had to be found to provide the service at night-times and it had now been decided from 8.30pm to 6.30am it would operate from the Bartlet Hospital.

A suitable room had been found and enough equipment to service it.

The change move would most likely take place in December with a big publicity campaign to make residents aware.

Between 6.30am and 8.30pm, the minor injuries unit would run as normal from the General.

Mrs Selby said the unit was used by 15,000 people a year but "only one or two people" between midnight and 6am.

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