Should our hospitals face the axe?

AS THE future of the health service in this country comes under more and more scrutiny, there are suggestions that some general hospitals which currently offer an across the board service could be axed in order to develop “super-hospitals” providing a higher standard of care to a larger population.

AS THE future of the health service in this country comes under more and more scrutiny, there are suggestions that some general hospitals which currently offer an across the board service could be axed in order to develop “super-hospitals” providing a higher standard of care to a larger population.

If this does happen, then Ipswich Hospital would certainly be safe. It could even be enhanced as a new “super-hospital” catering for more people in Suffolk.

However the situation could be different in the west of the county - a widespread cull of small general hospitals could spell the end for the comprehensive service provided by the West Suffolk Hospital.

It could mean that people from Stowmarket who currently have the choice of whether to go to Ipswich or Bury for hospital treatment could lose that choice. How serious would that be for health care in Suffolk?

My initial reaction when I heard about the plans was that it would be appalling - if people need an accident and emergency department, they need it as near their home as possible.

If someone from Bury is suffering from a suspected heart attack or breaks their leg, they want to be treated in their home town - not face an ambulance trip to Ipswich or Cambridge.

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Emergency services talk about the “golden hour” - if someone is admitted to hospital within an hour of the first call being made their chances of survival and recovery are much greater than if there is a delay.

However I do wonder if in an age of high-technology ambulances and highly-trained paramedics on hand whether it is really necessary to have so many ready-for-anything emergency departments.

And is it necessary for all casualty departments to deal with all emergencies in their area?

It is well-known that in East Anglia anyone with a serious head injury is going to be treated at Addenbrookes.

If someone suffers a serious head injury in a road accident on the A14 at Stowmarket, would it not make more sense to take them straight to Cambridge rather than bringing them to Ipswich first?

Even if it no longer has a full casualty department, there would still be a need for a hospital of some kind at Bury - to look after the routine health needs of the area, to carry out routine operations.

And it could still have a “drop-in” emergency department dealing with non-life threatening conditions which make up the overwhelming majority of casualty work anyway.

Someone who has, say, suffered a suspected broken arm in Bury could still have the injury x-rayed and set in the town - even if the emergency department isn't able to handle the fall-out of a 10-vehicle pile-up on the A14.

The big issue, however, is of course that any fundamental change in health care like this needs to be carefully managed and explained.

People would naturally be up in arms at the thought of losing their accident and emergency department.

However if they were told they could face a 45-minute wait in a minor injuries unit rather than a three-hour wait in a casualty waiting room next time they slice their hand, they might think differently.

But I certainly wouldn't like to be the health service manager who has to explain this to a sceptical public.

I SEE I have been accused of trying to stir up a row between Suffolk Preservation Society and the Ipswich Society.

I would hate to see these two august bodies, which have the interests of the county and its main town at heart, at daggers drawn - but the fact remains that there is a difference between the interests of the urban and rural Suffolk and there is nothing wrong with heritage groups fighting their own corners.

As a fast-growing urban centre with close links to London and continental Europe, Ipswich has different interests to the scenically more beautiful rural Suffolk where the pace of life remains much slower.

What is acceptable in an urban landscape is very different to what is acceptable in an attractive village.

I would not like to see the Willis building in Kersey or Lavenham, but in the heart of the Ipswich commercial district it is a stunning landmark.

Similarly a mock-Tudor building in a modern part of Ipswich would look ridiculously twee but in the traditional villages it would blend in well.

As someone who has lived and worked in both rural Suffolk and in Ipswich itself, I hope I can appreciate the merits of both environments and can distinguish between the needs of the two.

Where I have a problem is with people who think that one set of building standards suits the whole of the county - such thinking is a mistake and one which would see the development of our county town held back unnecessarily.

I CAN see why national journalists had so much fun with Cherie Blair being investigated by police, for jokingly cuffing a teenager round the head after he made a rabbit ear sign above her head.

There's been all this analysis about whether the government brought the investigation about by emphasising the need for political correctness and who was to blame for the situation in the first place.

To my mind the lessons from this are clear - there are some small-minded busy-bodies who will try any means to try to discredit the prime minister and his family.

There might be dozens of reasons to attack Tony and Cherie Blair, but this playful episode wasn't one of them!

And the Strathclyde Police have a total lack of common sense.

Instead of assigning six detectives to the case, the person who tried to make the complaint should have been told to get a life and warned that next time such a fatuous report was made they would be prosecuted for wasting police time.