One dissenting voice on NHS board

A LONE voice on the NHS culling committee was praised today for speaking out against the drastic cuts.While every other member of the Suffolk East Primary Care Trust approved the proposals in front of them, county councillor Harold Mangar abstained from voting on the closure of the Hayward Day Hospital and a range of mental health services.

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A LONE voice on the NHS culling committee was praised today for speaking out against the drastic cuts.

While every other member of the Suffolk East Primary Care Trust approved the proposals in front of them, county councillor Harold Mangar abstained from voting on the closure of the Hayward Day Hospital and a range of mental health services.

Speaking after the meeting, he said: “I'm not convinced by their arguments. I have no doubt that the staff at the PCT will try their hardest but I don't think the resources will be there for them to do this.

“Care in the community has not worked in the past and that's my fear.

“I have grave concerns over whether we can get enough staff to work in the community and I do not think we should be shutting beds.

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“I didn't want to vote against it but I don't, in all honesty, support what they want to do.”

Anthony Dooley, of the Suffolk User Forum, a group which supports mental health patients, said: “He seems to be the only person who has grasped the potential negative implications of these proposals.

“His actions matter a lot to those people who are going to lose services and who don't want to see their mental health deteriorate. He has, in effect, spoken for all those people.”

Because Mr Mangar is a member of Ipswich PCT he was only able to vote on the issues that affected that area. He did not have a vote on Aldeburgh, Hartismere or the Bartlet.

Apart from Mr Mangar, all other board members voted to close a swathe of health services at the meeting in Kesgrave yesterday, yet today Patricia Hewitt is insisting the NHS is in sound financial shape.

The only tiny glimmer of hope now rests on Suffolk County Council's health scrutiny committee whose members have the power to refer the whole Changing For The Better consultation process to health secretary Patricia Hewitt if they agree that it was flawed.

This would delay things as it could mean another consultation has to be carried out, but it is unlikely that it would stop the closures altogether.

Today campaigners said they were deeply disappointed with the decisions but vowed to continue their fight.

Roy Gray, chairman of Felixstowe's Save Our Hospitals action group, said: “I'm very disappointed but it's not unexpected.

“The fight is not over. I have already been talking to people from the other campaign groups to see whether we can do something collectively.”

The blanket approval of all the proposals came despite some very serious concerns being raised by the Professional Executive Committee (PEC) - a group of health professionals (GPs, nurses, health visitors etc) who inform the board's decisions.

Brian Keeble, director of public health and member of the PEC, said: “The PEC has continuing concerns around the ability of community based teams to deliver the level of service required.

“We are also gravely concerned about the impact of the recent cuts to social services budgets and the burden that could be placed on the PCT.”

Despite these fears and the overwhelming public opposition which emerged throughout the Changing for the Better consultation process, health bosses at the meeting insisted the changes would lead to better patient care.

Carole Taylor Brown, chief executive of the PCTs, said: “At the heart it's about improving health care for our communities. These proposals are, therefore, not primarily about money.

“Yes, they will have an impact on our financial situation but the majority of the savings that we make from these proposals will be re-invested in to services which will enable us to provide more care to more people in a more flexible way.”

The PCTs are currently forecasting to have debts of £19.8m by the end of the year but Mrs Taylor-Brown said two-thirds of the savings made from closing services will be reinvested into community services. £1.4m will be put directly into improving the buildings the PCTs retain, such as the Felixstowe General.

Ipswich Hospital and the Suffolk Mental Health Trust said they were in full support of the proposals.

Do you agree that the changes will be better for patients? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Tell us who wrote the title 'Changing for the better'. If you know contact The Evening Star newsdesk on 01473 324788 or email starnews@eveningstar.co.uk.

In our bid not to let the health service in Suffolk be decimated without anyone in government paying attention we have sent this two Evening Stars from this week to Tony Blair. We will let you know if he responds and what he says.

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