Star finds space for PCT at Ipswich

BUILDINGS due to become vacant on the Ipswich Hospital site would be big enough to house the new headquarters of Suffolk's health trust, it emerged today.

BUILDINGS due to become vacant on the Ipswich Hospital site would be big enough to house the new headquarters of Suffolk's health trust, it emerged today.

Figures obtained by The Evening Star show that the Hayward Unit at the hospital measures 24,843 square feet, while the new Primary Care Trust (PCT) headquarters which is currently under construction measures 15,600 sq ft.

Since the move to new headquarters in Rushbrook House, in Bramford, was announced, concerns have been raised that it was not subject to public consultation, at a time when the trust is struggling to cut huge debts.

Questions have also been raised about whether the £300,000 a year rent would be better going back to the NHS rather than to the private sector.

Tim Yeo, MP for south Suffolk, was so outraged by the secrecy surrounding the move that he has written to health secretary Patricia Hewitt with his concerns.

He said: “I think they need to explain why the option that they've chosen is a better one. Given that there are vacant buildings which people are aware of on the hospital site the trust needs to be sufficiently open and transparent in its decision making.”

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Ipswich Hospital is currently in the process of moving four elderly care wards out of the Hayward Unit and into the south end of the hospital. The day hospital which used to be situated in the unit has also been moved out.

Jan Rowsell, hospital spokeswoman, refused to be drawn on whether the hospital would like the PCT to move on to their grounds.

She said: “We will explore all options and can't rule anything in or out.”

However, Carole Taylor-Brown, chief executive of Suffolk PCT, said Ipswich Hospital was never a potential location for the offices.

She said: “The available space at Ipswich Hospital would require a minimum of £3.5million to convert into offices. This does not represent good value for money.

“In addition to that, the new PCT is serving the people of Suffolk. We commission services from West Suffolk Hospital and many other providers as well as Ipswich Hospital.

“We need a base from which our staff can travel the length and breadth of the county, and return to with ease. The location we have identified is the most accessible for current staff in both east and west Suffolk.

“Another point to make is that putting the offices at Ipswich Hospital would mean an additional 100 or so cars on an already congested site.”

The PCT has revealed that it looked at 12 possible sites before deciding on Rushbrook House but has, so far, refused to reveal where these were.

n Where do you think the PCT should locate their new headquarters? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

WEBLINK: www.ipswichhospital.nhs.uk

September 21: It emerged that the new Suffolk PCT was planning to move to riverside offices in Bramford in the New Year.

The offices are part of a conversion of an old paper mill. The PCT refuse to reveal how much the move is costing.

September 22: Health workers raised concerns about access to the new offices, which are situated along a narrow, unlit lane with no footpaths. Documents from the trust reveal that they may have to provide a shuttle bus service.

September 23: Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer slams the PCT for keeping the financial details of the deal under wraps and demands answers.

September 25: PCT chief executive Carole Taylor-Brown answered only six of 20 questions posed to her by the Evening Star, but said the move is part of the trust's intention to reduce management costs by 20pc.

September 26: MPs David Ruffley, Chris Mole and Tim Yeo expressed their concern over the move.

October 2: It emerged that the rent for the new offices will be £301,000 a year - £42,000 more than the current offices at St Clement's.

October 4: Tim Yeo MP wrote to Patricia Hewitt to demand that the move is looked in to by Whitehall chiefs.

October 18: It emerged that a legally-binding deal has yet to be signed on the new HQ.

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