Resort health cuts attacked

DOCTORS today hit out at health chiefs over "knee-jerk" cuts and closures of medical services in Felixstowe which the resort will regret in the future.

DOCTORS today hit out at health chiefs over "knee-jerk" cuts and closures of medical services in Felixstowe which the resort will regret in the future.

All the town's four surgeries say both the General and Bartlet Hospitals will be needed with the resort set for rapid expansion and must be kept.

GPs are also angry at not being consulted on the proposals put forward for cuts - ideas now the subject of a 12-week consultation period - and say their expertise has not been used.

Doctors at Central Surgery, Haven Health, Howard House and Walton Surgery have written to Primary Care Trust chief executive Carole Taylor-Brown, clinical director Anne Taylor and Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer to voice their concerns.

"The population in the Felixstowe area is about to increase rapidly with new housing developments, also the already high proportion of elderly people, with complex health needs, is increasing," said the doctors.

"The capacity of both the Felixstowe General and Bartlet Hospitals will be needed for our town.

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"This is the wrong time to make 'knee-jerk' cuts and closures that we will regret in the future."

PCT chiefs have suggested closing the Bartlet - to be sold for £3.5 million to help pay off debts - and use the General for clinics and minor injuries, with around 15 beds.

Convalescent beds will no longer be needed because people will be discharged from hospital and looked after at home by teams of travelling carers.

But the GPs say the General is "too small to accommodate all of the necessary services, has inadequate parking and a congested local road network, making it unsuitable as the sole hospital in Felixstowe".

They say the travelling carers, known as the Intermediate Care Team, are a useful community service but offer limited practical services, are only available day-time working hours and often cannot get to a patient until the next day.

"This service in no way replaces the need for many patients to receive immediate assessment, diagnosis, 24-hour supervision and care before being discharged," they said.

Mrs Taylor told councillors the care team was "highly regarded" by GPs, had been a huge success with a growing satisfaction among patients, and is the way forward for care.

There had been 500 referrals in the past seven months, but it had only been possible to help half the people because of the day-time working. Once the Bartlet closed there would be investment in the service with the aim to have night teams, too.

Opinion - see page 6.

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