‘Fight must go on’ - Ipswich MP Tom Hunt on controversial orthopaedic centre move

PUBLISHED: 08:20 03 July 2020 | UPDATED: 08:20 03 July 2020

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt is set to debate the future of Ipswich Hospital today Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt is set to debate the future of Ipswich Hospital today Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

House of Commons

This week the campaign to prevent our orthopaedic services from being broken up at our local hospital has continued. Earlier this week I met with the health minister Edward Argar to raise my concerns and to call for the proposal to be blocked and a petition established by campaign group Orwell Ahead has gathered real momentum, at the time of writing it had reached over 7,500 signatures. This is quite extraordinary bearing in mind the petition was only set up a few days ago.

I was asked by the leadership of the Hospitals Trust to share with them some of the correspondence and concerns that have been raised with me by constituents about the plan to build a new Orthopaedic Centre in Colchester and I was only too happy to share with them a small sample of the social media messages I’ve received from constituents opposing the proposed downgrade of our hospital. I know that some of those proposing this don’t like it being referred to as a “downgrade” but frankly I don’t know what else to call it when you propose hiving off such a core element of a core service to another hospital half an hour down the A12 (apologies for any feathers ruffled).

With regards to addressing the concerns that have been raised with me, both by constituents and hospital workers, my message to the leadership is clear; the only way that you will be able to address both their concerns and mine is by taking these plans off the table.

A key point for me to note is, that as far as I’m concerned, the campaign has only just begun and I was delighted yesterday to be informed that I have secured an adjournment debate on the topic ‘Orthopaedic services at Ipswich Hospital’ for next Tuesday evening. If this is an issue of interest to you, then please do tune in on the BBC Parliament Channel.

Adjournment debates allow individual MPs to debate in detail, in the House of Commons Chamber with a relevant government minister, issues of local importance. So far I’ve raised the matter twice in the Commons Chamber, but securing a specific adjournment debate on the matter takes it to another level and is a great opportunity for the case against what is being proposed by the Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals Trust to be properly made.

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I will make sure that I am properly prepared and that I have all the key arguments to hand. I am aware of the fact that there is a big responsibility on my shoulders and that when I’m standing up there making the case for retaining core services at our hospital, I am doing so on behalf of thousands of my constituents who have significant concerns, as well as other vulnerable individuals in Suffolk who reside outside my constituency but nevertheless rely on our Hospital.

I am aware that some of my parliamentary colleagues in Essex are pushing for this project to happen and I must say that I’m disappointed that they haven’t made more effort to see things from our perspective. Ultimately if they truly believe in the sustainability of the merger between Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals, then they must see the very real danger that the people of Ipswich and its elected representatives both at a local and national level could well be on the verge of losing faith in it.

The merger should not involve core services being transferred from one of the hospitals to the other. However here we have the case that one of the hospitals massively loses out at the expense of the other. Colchester Hospital, which already has a full complement of orthopaedic services, will host these services in a more state of the art building.

Clearly the news that Ipswich Hospital will be getting a brand new A and E Department is to be welcomed but it is in no way comparable to losing a core service which is what will happen if our elective orthopaedics are transferred from Ipswich to Colchester.

I wish Colchester Hospital all the best and I hope it goes from strength to strength, but it cannot be at our expense. I actually wouldn’t want to see a state of affairs where Colchester’s orthopaedic services were broken up and a core element of the service transferred to a new centre in Ipswich. I would see why this would be very unfair and I would fully understand the anger of local Colchester MPs if this were to be the case.

However this is not what I’m calling for. What I am calling for, is a cheaper two site solution that keeps core services as close as possible to both populations. Addressing unacceptable waiting times and cancellations in relation to hip and knee operations is a major issue that needs to be addressed at Hospitals up and down the country but the solution to this should not be moving core services further away from people.

I will not sit back and accept a situation that would see Ipswich Hospital stick out like a sore thumb by being the only hospital of its size in the Eastern region not to have a full complement of orthopaedic services. In short, the fight must go on!

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