Resort hospital's future in doubt

HEALTH chiefs today refused to give an assurance over the future of Felixstowe's community hospital - but pledged its services would not be lost.But the shock announcement will immediately send out a warning to people in the town, still fresh from the battle to save the Bartlet hospital from closure.

HEALTH chiefs today refused to give an assurance over the future of Felixstowe's community hospital - but pledged its services would not be lost.

But the shock announcement will immediately send out a warning to people in the town, still fresh from the battle to save the Bartlet hospital from closure.

The Evening Star already has a Hands off the General campaign to safeguard its future - and today vowed to fight to keep the hospital unless plans to replace it and its services really do provide better care for the resort's residents.

We will fight for the best for the community and need to be thoroughly convinced by the need for any changes.


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There have long been fears that the hospital could be closed, leaving people in the growing seaside town facing repeated journeys to Ipswich for treatment.

And health bosses have now indicated that it might be reaching the end of its useful life.

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But they insist the services and clinics it provides will remain in the town, possibly on another site more suited to modern medicine.

Ana Selby, chief executive of the Suffolk Coastal Primary Care Trust, which runs Felixstowe General in Constable Road, said there would be full consultation with the public over any changes.

No firm proposals had been put forward yet but it was expected that options would be drawn up soon for medical care for the town.

No guarantee could be given that the hospital would remain - especially as it was an old building that was becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to adapt.

"We are talking about health services for the 21st century and we have to think carefully about where some of these services should be. We need to think not just about bricks and mortar but about the services we provide and how we can best provide that care," said Mrs Selby.

"We are talking about redevelopment of services and there are services we need to change and improve.

"Some of the buildings we have are old and don't give patients dignity and privacy because of the way they are built. It may be that services will be moved out of these buildings into other ones.

"We will be looking at options with the staff and the community to see what is going to provide appropriate services for the 21st century for Felixstowe.

"If we have buildings, they need to be appropriate buildings rather than something which was good in its heyday and which during time we have tried to improve - but there are only so many times you can adapt something.

"We will show the options to the public and we will want to hear their views on these options. But to stand still and continue how we are is not an option. We have to move forward."

Interested organisations and residents will be reassured that there will be full public consultation from the outset - especially after the furore when it was proposed to close the Bartlet five years ago. The convalescent unit was saved after a long battle led by the Evening Star.

However, options are not likely to include a full-scale new 200-bed hospital like that proposed and never built in the 1980s.

n What do you think - does Felixstowe need a hospital? Write to Evening Star Letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

WHEN health chiefs proposed closure of the Bartlet Hospital it was clearly not the right plan for patient care.

The Evening Star was the first to reveal Suffolk Health Authority's then-secret plans to close the rehabilitation hospital to save £330,000 a year and supporters of the Bartlet could not believe it.

But just a few months into 1998, the full picture became clear and a massive campaign was launched.

The crux of the campaign was not just that people did not want to lose what was - and still is - a much-loved and cherished, unique facility, where people could recuperate in the very best surroundings.

But the plan for replacement beds and care simply didn't stand up. It was proposed to provide 51 beds at Ipswich to replace the Bartlet's 58 beds - yet only 25 of these were "new" beds. And no-one could guarantee that the beds - mostly scattered around the complex - would be used for rehabilitation and they could have been taken for acute care at any time.

The Star and the Bartlet Support Group gathered 23,000 signatures on a petition from people all over Ipswich, Felixstowe and east Suffolk whose families had benefited from the hospital.

Posters were placed in the windows of hundreds of homes and businesses, hundreds of people took part in a protest march and night-time vigil, and attended public meetings and those of the councils and health authorities.

Ipswich MP Jamie Cann and Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer joined the campaign, along with Suffolk Coastal District Council, Felixstowe Town Council, the East Suffolk Community Health Council, Trimley parish councils, Suffolk Pensioners' Association and other community groups.

Campaigners for Felixstowe General will want a full reassurance that no services will be lost and will want to see a sound investment in the resort's medical care.

Selling the General's site for housing and investing that along with extra cash into a purpose-built unit offering modern care is the very least that people will be looking for.

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