New hospital needs recipe for success

FELIXSTOWE Community Hospital - the new name for the General - is a wonderful facility for the town and something that is badly needed.But there are question marks over some aspects of its operation - and these need to be sorted out as soon as possible.

FELIXSTOWE Community Hospital - the new name for the General - is a wonderful facility for the town and something that is badly needed.

But there are question marks over some aspects of its operation - and these need to be sorted out as soon as possible. They have to be seen as teething troubles rather the start of on-going running sores.

There is still ill-feeling across much of east Suffolk that the re-opening of the Community hospital sees the closure of the Bartlet.

That closure was sad. There is still an on-going need for convalescent care in the area. But it has happened now. The Bartlet is gone and will not be coming back.

The situation with chiropody services, which have been suspended because there is no room for them in the new hospital, is a mighty foul-up.

Bosses have said the service is only temporarily suspended while new accommodation is found for it in the town.

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Everyone will hope they are right - in a town with an ageing population it is vital to have services covering every aspect of health.

But the most extraordinary revelation about the new hospital is that meals are being driven in from Cambridge every day.

Food for patients in NHS hospitals is often less than appetising, even if its nutritional qualities have been calculated down to the last calorie.

To cart every morsel 60 miles from Cambridge does seem excessive - it is difficult to believe the journey enhances the flavour and the food miles built up seem incredible.

Some patients do need special diets, but many patients can eat normal food while in hospital - and giving them good meals is a vital part of the healing process.

Yet too often hospital food is very disappointing.

A few years ago I visited a friend in hospital who had just had a baby. Before we visited, her husband called us to say: “Don't take flowers or grapes. Take a pack of Marks & Spencer sandwiches . . . a triple pack!”

I had to have a routine operation a few years ago - and used my health insurance to have the treatment at the Nuffield Hospital.

The hotel-quality food there contributed, I'm sure, to my rapid recovery and allowed me to be discharged 48 hours after the operation - and to be back at work within a week!

Food served to patients in NHS hospitals can never be described as being of hotel quality - of course there is a strict budget that they have to meet.

So while the quality of care offered by the NHS in its hospitals is second to none, maybe the row over the food miles built up between Cambridge and Felixstowe will prompt bosses of NHS hospitals in Suffolk generally to have a new look at the food they serve their patients.

IN one of the worst-kept secrets for years, the government has now confirmed that it is looking at a “Greater Ipswich” solution to the local authorities in Suffolk.

This would see an enlarged county town, possibly extended as far as Felixstowe and the Shotley peninsula, running its own affairs.

Lowestoft would link up with Yarmouth and the rest of the county would be a single authority, possibly run from Bury St Edmunds.

It's an eminently sensible suggestion - even if it does cause apoplexy among some residents of Kesgrave and Pinewood.

I suspect, too, that the increasingly urban Felixstowe would feel far more at home in a greater Ipswich authority than being fun from the other side of the county.

ONCE every four years, the attention of politicians on this side of the Atlantic - as well as those all over the world - is focussed on the American presidential election.

It's important for the whole planet because whoever is in the White House sets a course that will have an impact on every country in the world.

The current president effectively stopped the Kyoto process by refusing to ratify the treaty on global warming - and of course set the tone for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is nonsense to pretend that the American election does not matter to us in Europe.

This year's election is set to be one of the most exciting for decades - and it still looks highly possible that the US will end up with either the first woman president or the first Afro-American president.

That will be a huge step forward.

But while the battle for the Democratic nominee remains tight - and opinion polls suggest that the Democrats are likely to win in November - the Republican nomination looks set to go to Vietnam war hero John McCain.

That has to be good news. He is the only one of his party's remaining nominees who is not a Christian fundamentalist.

Mitt Romney is a Mormon whose beliefs have raised eyebrows across the country while Mike Huckerbee is a born-again Christian who believes in the literal truth of the Bible - including believing that the world was created in six days about 5,000 years ago.

Having spent a summer in America back in the early 1980s, it was difficult for me to escape the “televangelists” that dominated the airwaves every Sunday.

Their view of Christianity was very different to the view of Christianity I had been brought up with . . . and saw in this country.

As an ex-pat Briton I was staying with in the States said to me: “They know a lot about faith and hope - but precious little about charity unless you believe in the same things that they do!”

A robust religious faith is one thing, but it can be very dangerous when mixed with high political office. There is nothing more dangerous than a powerful political leader who is convinced he is guided by the will of God.

And while John McCain may have his own faith, he is a secular politician.

So his party nomination would be good for his country and good for the world - the US needs to be run by someone seeking to do the best for this world, not preparing for the next.