New front in battle of the Bartlet

CAMPAIGNERS who would love to see Felixstowe's Bartlet Hospital re-opened as a respite and convalescent care centre insist their dream is still alive.

CAMPAIGNERS who would love to see Felixstowe's Bartlet Hospital re-opened as a respite and convalescent care centre insist their dream is still alive.

With no plans yet approved for the closed 50-bed hospital - and no deal done on its sale - they believe there is still hope.

NHS Suffolk sees the situation differently.

The primary care trust says nothing has changed since it agreed two years ago to sell the property overlooking Felixstowe seafront to the PJ Livesey Group, which wants to convert it into luxury apartments.

It expects full plans to be revealed soon.

The Bartlet Bequest Action Group though believes little is likely to happen in the current economic situation - and that gives it more time to assemble its proposals, business plan and finance for an alternative project.

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Barry Farr, chairman of the BBAG, said: “I think the delay and the fact that nothing is happening is good for us - it gives us more time to try and save this hospital for the community.

“If things were moving forward rapidly, then I would be worried, but I don't think we have run out of time and hopefully there will be an opportunity in the not too distant future to do something. Hopefully, the PCT will be willing to open a dialogue with us.

“We know they don't want to run it and they don't want to keep it.

“At the end of the day we may have to do some form of purchase and we hope we can negotiate a mutually satisfactory situation.”

The aim would be to run the Bartlet as a respite and convalescent care centre, with complimentary health facilities, so that any elderly patient could obtain all the medical care they needed before returning home and without having to travel.

An organisation called the Bartlet Foundation would be set up to own the hospital on behalf of the community, while Bartlet Care Ltd - which already exists - would run the unit.

“There is still a huge need for convalescent care and other services which the NHS no longer provides and our aim is provide those services for the community,” said Mr Farr.

Is convalescence care still needed today? What would you like to see the Bartlet used for? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

TO mark the anniversary of Dr John Bartlet's death, his headstone has been restored.

Campaigners and Farthing Funeral Service worked together on the project to get the 92-year-old memorial at the old cemetery in Belvedere Road, Ipswich, cleaned and refurbished.

Mike Ninnmey, a member of the Felixstowe Save Our Hospitals Action Group and the Bartlet Bequest Action Group, said: “Dr Bartlet was one of the most visionary and important figures in our area and it is right that he is properly remembered and celebrated.

“He knew the importance of convalescent care for people at a time when many - especially women - could not return home because of their circumstances and needed time to recuperate.

“That need is still just as great today. Many elderly people do not have someone at home to look after them after a stay in hospital and need to be fully recovered and able to cope alone before they leave hospital.”

Heather Farthing, of Farthing Funeral Service, said the company was pleased to be able to help restore the memorial, without any charges, in order to pay tribute to part of Felixstowe's heritage.

“Our masonry work is carried out by F Masters of Woodbridge - the majority of the staff there are Felixstowe residents, and they too were keen to help,” she said.

“So the memorial has been restored with all the lead lettering enamelled to make the inscription clear, and we have also provided some flowers in celebration of his life.

“While we have been only too pleased to give our time and attention to this, it seems a pity that we must celebrate his life and memory in this way rather than by continuing to use the Bartlet Hospital for the purpose for which it was intended.”

FACTFILE: Bartlet

Creation of The Bartlet Hospital was Dr John Bartlet's dying wish on 27 May 1917.

Born in Ipswich and educated at Ipswich School and London University, Dr Bartlet, whose father and grandfather had been surgeons, was firmly convinced him people would get better far quicker if they were away from a busy hospital and, particularly women, not plunged straight back into a home environment.

He left �250,000 for purchase of land and construction of the hospital, leaving it to the trustees of his will to decide the details.

The hospital finally opened in 1926 on Felixstowe seafront on the site of Bath Hotel, which had been destroyed by suffragettes, and an old Martello Tower.

Dr Bartlet, who was 86 when he died, was honorary surgeon and governor, served as mayor of Ipswich and a magistrate, and later president, of the East Suffolk and Ipswich Hospital.

SAGA: The fight to save the Bartlet

The first threat to the Bartlet emerged in 1998 when the health authority wanted to close it to save �350,000 a year and pledged to create convalescent beds in wards at Ipswich Hospital.

An action group and The Evening Star spearheaded a campaign, taking it all the way to the health minister Frank Dobson who agreed the hospital should not close.

After repeated declarations that the Bartlet's future was secure, four years ago it became apparent that it was under threat again - and with the PCT needing to cut its debts, it was serious.

Save Our Felixstowe Hospitals and the Evening Star immediately launched a fresh campaign - holding a series of meetings, a protest march, and gathering 16,000 signatures on a petition.

Despite making protests at the House of Commons and in the High Court, this time the health minister would not support the campaign - ruling that the Bartlet should close.

In early 2007, the PCT agreed the building should be sold to development company PJ Livesey Group if they get permission to turn it into flats.

The hospital closed in January 2008 - and since then has been standing empty, surrounded by metal fencing.

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