Retired doctor attacks hospital moves

A CAMPAIGNING former doctor has today criticised moves to improve Felixstowe's health services – casting doubt over whether the ideas will work.Alan Wimhurst expressed worries over moves to cut 30 beds from the resort's two hospitals and questioned whether sufficient care for patients currently labelled as "bed blockers" can really be given in their homes.

A CAMPAIGNING former doctor has today criticised moves to improve Felixstowe's health services - casting doubt over whether the ideas will work.

Alan Wimhurst expressed worries over moves to cut 30 beds from the resort's two hospitals and questioned whether sufficient care for patients currently labelled as "bed blockers" can really be given in their homes.

Suffolk Coastal Primary Care Trust is to turn Felixstowe General Hospital into an out-patient day care hospital, and the Bartlet into an in-patient unit.

The 25 beds controlled by local GPs in the General will be moved to the Bartlet, cutting the number of convalescent beds for people sent from Ipswich by 30.

But health chiefs say the move will not affect patient care - and aim to have more people use the 50 remaining beds as hospital stays will be shorter in future.

More social care workers will be recruited to look after people when they return home.

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But Dr Wimhurst, who was a GP at the town's Howard House surgery for more than 30 years, said: "The loss of 30 beds is at a time when an ageing population has increasing need of such facilities.

"Much has been heard of care in the home, but there are too few carers and no finance available to recruit and train them."

The earlier discharge of patients was "a pious hope given the condition of many of the in-patients, the absence of home carers and the diminishing number of residential homes".

He added: "For years health service bureaucrats have chased the chimera of bed number reduction with cries of increased efficiency and care in the community.

"The result is bed blocking. Sadly, the greatest increase from health service investment has been these bureaucracies."

Mr Wimhurst feared there would be competition between Ipswich consultants and Felixstowe GPs for the reduced number of beds, and the project was merely a cost-cutting exercise and would result in poorer care for the elderly.

He also voiced concerns over the night-time operation of the minor injuries unit and is urging that it should not be removed at night to the Bartlet, which has difficult access and is less central.

The PCT has said beds at the Bartlet will be for Felixstowe and Suffolk Coastal area patients as Ipswich residents, who currently use 47 per cent of the beds at the convalescent unit, will in future use the new Ravenswood development.

The minor injuries unit - now used by 15,000 people a year - will be expanded and continue to open 24 hours a day but there are issues to be resolved about its night-time staffing as all night staff will be at the Bartlet.

The trust is also looking to transfer more clinics to the town from Ipswich Hospital to provide care closer to home and remove the need to travel.

n How should care in the home be provided for the frail and elderly? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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