NHS chiefs are sorry - again!

HEALTH bosses today admitted they got it wrong - AGAIN!

Naomi Gornall

HEALTH bosses today admitted they got it wrong - AGAIN!

NHS Suffolk has finally admitted they should have discussed the decision to spend �500,000 on a farm with the public.

It was only after The Evening Star pushed the organisation on its controversial decision to purchase the six-acre site and turn it into a car park that health chiefs held their hands up and said they regretted not discussing it in public at an earlier stage.

Earlier this year they were also forced to apologise for not discussing the treatment of serious heart attack patients with the public.

Outrage was caused after it emerged NHS Suffolk spent nearly half-a-million pounds of public money on the project without the full approval of the board or a public consultation.

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The decision was made as it was claimed there was not enough parking spaces at its premises in Paper Mill Lane, despite promising that parking would not be a problem when it leased the site just under three years ago.

The Star posed 20 questions to NHS Suffolk to uncover the details surrounding the purchase and we have printed these answers in full.

They reveal that the board was consulted about the purchase through the chairman in December 2008 and the issue was in fact discussed at a board meeting in February this year. They claim there were no objections put forward.

Following weeks of public outcry, health officials have at last admitted they got it wrong.

A spokeswoman for NHS Suffolk said: “We should have discussed this in public earlier and regret not doing so. Our aim is to be open and transparent in all our dealings. It was the right decision to buy the site and all our financial control procedures were followed, but it is important we discuss the whole decision in public.”

Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer said: “It is a pity that we have to get to this stage after a campaign by The Evening Star. They should have thought about this first of all.”

The answers also reveal that there are no plans to renovate or demolish the farmhouse and the NHS will be working with the planning authority to find the best use for it.

The farmland controversy:-

- NHS Suffolk has sparked outrage by splashing out �475,000 on farmland opposite its Bramford headquarters in March this year.

- The trust, which buys and plans healthcare in the county, wants to convert the 2.5 hectare space into car parking, and possibly transform a dilapidated farmhouse into staff facilities.

- The extra parking spaces are needed partly because NHS Suffolk's staffing numbers have more than doubled from 80 employees in 2006 to 190 today.

- Creating the new car parking spaces will cost an extra �50,000 on top of the initial investment.