NHS cuts hit home

SAD realities of Suffolk's health crisis hit home today as a mental health centre was due to close its doors for the final time.Staff and members at Ipswich's Bridge House Clubhouse have reached the day they have been dreading since January when it was announced the axe was falling on the county's mental health services.

SAD realities of Suffolk's health crisis hit home today as a mental health centre was due to close its doors for the final time.

Staff and members at Ipswich's Bridge House Clubhouse have reached the day they have been dreading since January when it was announced the axe was falling on the county's mental health services.

As the clubhouse's supporters fought back the tears, elsewhere in the town there was more concern about the growing problems surrounding the NHS.

A meeting of the Ipswich Hospital Trust today is likely to see 105 job losses confirmed in an attempt to tackle the £4.7million debt strangling the trust, adding to the national tally of more than 7,000 NHS jobs under threat.


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Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt and Prime Minister Tony Blair continue to stand up to those calling for their heads because of the health crisis but their promises of a 21st century service are likely to be met by deaf ears by those at Bridge House.

Marion Sharpe, former acting manager of the clubhouse, said: “It's a very sad day for everybody involved. I seriously think it's a mistake and I don't believe it will be cost effective in the long run.

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“It was a wonderful place to work and there were wonderful staff and members to work with.”

Richard Geater, a member of the clubhouse for five years, said: “The clubhouse provided a community for people with mental health problems and taking that away will sadly see that community falling apart.

“Members are so used to having it there it will come as a shock when they can't just call in.

“I just hope people can try and use it as an opportunity to move forward.”

The clubhouse, at Lower Brook Street, provides a community-based programme for people with mental health problems, with a focus on work and community involvement.

It is closing following the series of cuts to mental health services made by NHS trusts in east Suffolk earlier this year.

Trusts approved the closure of The Hollies employment-based project at St Clements Hospital in Ipswich, the Old Fox House Clubhouse in Stowmarket and Bridge House, despite efforts by campaigners to fight for its survival.

MORE than 100 jobs hang in the balance today as the Ipswich Hospital Trust prepares for its crunch meeting.

Board members are due to meet at 3pm to discuss its 2006/7 plans, with an emphasis on reducing its spiralling debts.

It was announced yesterday that 105 jobs are likely to be cut at the hospital which will result in the hospital losing more than 10per cent of its staff.

Despite the job losses, existing debts of £4.7m are likely to get worse when the 2005/6 year figures are in as there is a potential overspend of a further £5m.

Today's meeting will also consider other money-saving ideas such as charging professionals for help and advice providing new clinical income, shopping round to buy the drugs it needs more cheaply, reconfiguring the wards and increasing staff car park charges.

The trust also says making better use of theatres and reducing sickness levels among staff will help it reduce expenditure by nearly 10per cent of its current £174m.

If the board agree to the cuts, a consultation process will begin with staff and union representatives.

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