MP Tom Hunt: My fears over moving Ipswich orthopaedic centre to Colchester

PUBLISHED: 11:23 12 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:23 12 June 2020

Ipswich Hospital   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Ipswich Hospital Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN


I was not surprised to see that the majority of those who took part in the consultation on the proposed specialist Orthopaedic centre in Colchester opposed the move. However, I was slightly surprised at the proportion, bearing in mind there were people from both the Ipswich area and Colchester that took part. If the consultation had just focused on the Ipswich area, I imagine that the proportion who were opposed to the new centre could have been well over 80 per cent.

One new coronavirus-related death has been reported in Suffolk and north Essex Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNOne new coronavirus-related death has been reported in Suffolk and north Essex Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

I think it’s very important that the Hospitals Trust reflects on the feedback they have received. I do not believe it should be a done deal that our hospital will lose its elective orthopaedic services to a new specialist centre in Colchester. The reality is that both a number of my constituents and I continue to have significant concerns about what is being proposed and that there is a significant responsibility on the Hospitals Trust to address these.

The most obvious question is in a sense the most practical one; getting from A to B. Clearly using public transport post-op isn’t an option and we shouldn’t assume everyone has loved ones or contacts who are able to transport them both ways. I’ve been informed that Healthwatch are responsible for drawing up a comprehensive piece of work providing solutions but so far my concerns relating to this practical question have not been addressed. I have been contacted by a number of elderly constituents who have raised these very questions.

I made clear to the chief executive and the health minister, who visited our hospital after I raised concerns, that if the centre does end up being in Colchester, then all pre and postop appointments must remain at Ipswich Hospital. Having said that, this does not in any way mean that I have given up trying to push for an alternative.

Since before I was elected, there certainly seems to have been momentum behind the new centre going to Colchester. Perhaps if it is a choice of where a new centre needs to go, then a practical argument can be made for why Colchester is a more suitable location, but this doesn’t mean that either hospital should have to lose out. Nothing changes the fact that we currently have a very highly rated emergency and elective orthopaedic practice at our hospital. The latter would be changed under the proposal and my fear is that the former could be as well, in terms of the services that remain.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt. Picture: PAUL GEATERIpswich MP Tom Hunt. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Over the past few months our hospital has perhaps been under more pressure than ever before and I couldn’t be more thankful to all the frontline NHS staff who have gone above and beyond looking after some of our most vulnerable and saving lives. We have a great hospital and it’s almost solely down to the people who work in it. As many of you will know I’ve had a “Talking with Tom” phone call system to keep in contact with constituents during lockdown and I lost count of the number of people who passed on to me their personal thanks for the hospital and the brilliant staff who work at it.

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I’m glad that the government, seeing the pressure that all our hospitals were under fighting Covid-19, took the decision it took to eliminate all hospital debt.

This will save the Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals Trust just shy of £200 million. I’m also pleased that our hospital will benefit from a brand new A and E department. I’ve gone over the plans in detail with hospital staff and I’m strongly of the view that this will bring major benefits to the hospital and many of my constituents.

This does not diminish the sense that many of my constituents have that, since the merger with Colchester Hospital, things have gone backwards and not forwards. The combination of the recent inspection report and the indication that the new Orthopaedic centre will be in Colchester and that our hospital will lose its elective Orthopaedic services has clearly fuelled much of this. It has for me and that is why I share my constituents’ concerns.

I have discussed the proposed Orthopaedic centre with senior figures at East Suffolk and North Essex Hospitals Trust but ultimately my concerns remain, and I do think the decision should be reconsidered.

If it goes ahead there could be some benefits. I take the point that by potentially having ring fenced bed space for elective/planned operations, this could lead to their being fewer cancellations and perhaps fewer delays. Having first class modern buildings will also be beneficial. Ultimately however, I believe that at this stage, and bearing in mind the public opposition, I think it would be best to go back to the drawing board.

I think an outcome that would be fairer to both hospitals would be to invest the money that was going to be allocated for the new centre into improving the Orthopaedic practices at both Ipswich and Colchester. Wouldn’t it be far better to have two winners?

I will be writing to the secretary of state for health again soon outlining my ongoing concerns and my suggestion about what I believe the course of action should be to benefit my constituents the most.

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