Sad farewell to Bartlet

DOCTOR John Bartlet had very straightforward and firmly held views on convalescence after major operations.Although he never got to see the hospital which would bear his name, most observers feel he would have been thrilled with it.

DOCTOR John Bartlet had very straightforward and firmly held views on convalescence after major operations.

Although he never got to see the hospital which would bear his name, most observers feel he would have been thrilled with it.

Spacious, peaceful, with a superb panoramic view of the sea from its clifftop position, it was just the sort of restful and relaxing place where people could get fully better before going home to their families.

His idea was conceived at a time when life was hard for most people, particularly women.

We live very different fast-paced lives today, but at least we have the benefits of dish-washers, microwaves, cookers, cars, washing machines, electric kettles and irons and many other appliances we could not do without.

In the late 19th and early 20th century - not an age of new men - women bore the brunt of all these manual chores.

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Many would return home to their tiny cottages from a major operation, no indoor toilets or bathrooms, and the family would expect them to carry on where they had left off.

Dr Bartlet believed people needed much longer to recover, and a busy hospital was certainly not the place to do it.

Today the Bartlet, off Bath Hill, still has the atmosphere he envisaged - light and airy rooms, wonderful views, a place to rest.

Sadly the health service has changed and medical advances and finances mean such care is a luxury. Cars mean staff can travel and people can be sent to their own homes, better and more recovered when discharged from hospital, and needing only visits from nurses to attend to their needs.

Campaigners though would argue that many people still cannot be looked after at home.

Elderly husbands or wives are not always fit enough to do it, leading to further health problems, readmissions, and bed-blocking. With a growing elderly population they say the Bartlet is needed now more than ever.

Government and the Primary Care Trust though have held firm - and the health service is not for turning.

Ten years ago when the Bartlet was threatened with closure to save £330,000 a year with replacement convalescent beds at Ipswich Hospital, a massive protest campaign spearheaded by the Evening Star and an action group went all the way to the Houses of Parliament and the then health secretary Frank Dobson agreed to keep it open.

This time the campaign has been much tougher. With so many hospitals and services under threat, it was harder to gain the widespread support needed from the people of east Suffolk - which the hospital serves - and government would not relent.

Despite a major petition, a protest march, rallies in London and visits to Parliament to speak to MPs, the action group had to concede defeat and concentrate instead on not losing Felixstowe General.

PROTESTERS who fought gallantly to try to save Felixstowe's much-loved Bartlet Hospital from closure are to hold an event to give thanks for its medical service.

While some campaigners have still not given up hope and will fight to the bitter end to persuade the authorities to find some health or care use, it seems almost certain the building's current use will end this month.

Staff and services will move out of the Bartlet back to the newly-refurbished Felixstowe General Hospital in three phases.

This should be complete by January 28, when the Bartlet will close its doors for the last time - awaiting sale to a developer who wants to turn it into luxury flats.

To mark the end of nearly 82 years of convalescent care, the Save Our Felixstowe Hospitals Action Group (SOFHAG) is to hold a farewell gathering and a Ceremony of Thanksgiving.

The event is to take place on the prom in front of the Bartlet, near The Hut centre at the bottom of Bath Hill, at 2.30pm on Sunday January 27. Rev Peter Leitch will lead the thanksgiving.

SOFHAG chairman Roy Gray said: “When the last patient is moved it will effectively mean the closure of the Bartlet as a hospital.

“It is hoped that people who have been patients, or relatives or friends of those it has served, will come along.”

Mr Gray said banners and placards were welcome at the event.

The Bartlet has served as a convalescent home for east Suffolk but the Primary Care Trust says the care will not be needed in future as modern medicine will allow people to be sent home earlier from hospital to be looked after at home by travelling care teams.

The General will have 16 beds but these will be “step up” beds to allow people to be treated and avoid being admitted to Ipswich Hospital. Some may be used as convalescent beds if there is a real need.

What do you think should happen to the Bartlet? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail


Creation of The Bartlet Hospital was Dr John Bartlet's dying wish in 1917.

Born in Ipswich and educated at Ipswich School and London University, his work in the medical profession firmly convinced him people would get better far quicker if they were away from a busy hospital and, particularly women, not plunged straight back into a home environment.

He left £250,000 for purchase of land and construction of the hospital, leaving it to the trustees of his will to decide the details.

The hospital finally opened in 1926 on Felixstowe seafront on the site of Bath Hotel, which had been destroyed by suffragettes, and an old Martello Tower.

Dr Bartlet, who was 86 when he died, was honorary surgeon and governor, and later president, of the East Suffolk and Ipswich Hospital.

IT is an enormous shame that no fresh medical or community use has been found for the Bartlet.

After more than 80 years' service to the people of east Suffolk, it is still a wonderful building and it will be disappointing to see it lost to luxury flats.

A big question mark still remains over convalescent care in the future - and as yet we are not convinced that the new system of looking after people in their homes is working.

The beauty of places like the Bartlet was that a patient had a nurse nearby whenever they needed help, medication, or simply assurance over how they were feeling, or just company, all vital parts of recovery from major operations or serious illness.

Many of those people will be stuck home alone from now on, or with partners unable to cope.

It will be costly to bring back facilities we have lost if they are needed, and we hope the campaigners never have cause to say we told you so.