Star fights for intensive care

TODAY The Evening Star brings into the public domain the future of the intensive care unit at Ipswich Hospital – one which senior doctors fear Suffolk may be at risk of losing.

TODAY The Evening Star brings into the public domain the future of the intensive care unit at Ipswich Hospital – one which senior doctors fear Suffolk may be at risk of losing.

Today the Star tells you a story which has been secretly bubbling under the surface in Suffolk hospital and health authority corridors of power for several weeks. It is information we view with a great degree of concern.

Today we reveal that senior doctors in Ipswich are scared that intensive care may be moved to the "regional centre" hospitals of Addenbrooke's, Cambridge, and the new Norfolk and Norwich.

Today, we are pleased to report that there is no immediate threat to the wellbeing of intensive care facilities in Ipswich – or the wonderful doctors and nurses who provide such excellent care at Heath Road.

Today, however we make one firm and unequivocal pledge:

We shall fight tooth and nail, now and into the future, to preserve full intensive care facilities, in Ipswich, for the people of Suffolk.

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Alongside tonight's Evening Star revelations, we have given the Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust the chance to comment in full.

This newspaper supports the Trust and supports the staff at Heath Road in full. But we believe this story needs airing – not least so the public can show its strong support for the locally-provided intensive care.

The Star's revelations are based on a series of recent developments which the senior doctors' body at Ipswich Hospital views with alarm. These include:

The axing of Suffolk Health Authority – and the arrival of a new Strategic Health Authority quango, based in ..... Cambridge.

This new, unelected, authority has been sitting on a proposal for a £11 million upgrade to Ipswich intensive care for months.

Doctors have been worried that there has been no movement forward, with no good explanation given.

The Government's announcement that the two super hospitals of Addenbrookes and the N & N have been given "Foundation Hospital" status – two of just four nationwide.

This will allow them to run their services free from the shackles of Government control – and to compete for custom as never before.

New air ambulance services coming on stream. The East Anglian Ambulance Service already has one helicopter in service – and a new one may be operating soon.

Ambulance service sources say they would be ready to "contract out" their facilities to anyone who wanted intensive care patients transporting from Suffolk to other locations, as currently happens in the most desperate cases.

Both Addenbrooke's and the N & N are well-equipped, first-rate, facilities which currently take a number of road-transfer cases from Suffolk each year. In Addenbrooke's case this is mainly for head injuries. In the case of the N & N, this is for other forms of specialist care – especially burns victims.

If Ipswich lost its intensive care, if the new strategic health body didn't feel it was worth preserving the service in Ipswich, there would be several knock-on effects.

One would be the effect on other Ipswich hospital services. One department links seamlessly to another and doctors fear the potential for a general down-grading of the services.

The second huge impact would be on the relatives of those in need of such expert tender loving care. Family groups would have to travel 50 miles each way, in the case of the N & N, and 60 miles each way, in the case of Addenbrookes.

On today's roads, that would be a daily nightmare not worth contemplating, not least because of the stressful situation they would find themselves in.

Ipswich doctors have already met several times, in their own forum, to discuss this threat. It is fair to say they are outraged that their detailed, well-thought-out, proposals for the £11 million upgrade have been stonewalled.

So today your campaigning Evening Star brings this story to you – a debate that should be aired and one that spin doctors would have buried and unaired in dusty files.

We have drawn a line in the sand. We say – keep intensive care in Ipswich, now and forever.

And we won't stand idly by as decisions are taken, well away from the gaze of the local community.

The newspaper which helped to bring you a revitalised ambulance service, thanks to the revelations of Ambulance Watch, now turns its attention into another arena.

We know all those who care about our hospital, our doctors and nurses, our local health workers and – most of all – the patients, will join in the fight.