We could upgrade two existing hospitals for the cost of one new one - says Ipswich MP
PUBLISHED: 08:58 23 February 2020 | UPDATED: 15:00 24 February 2020
In his latest column Tom Hunt says he is disappointed by the announcement this week that the intention is for the new orthopaedic centre to be based in Colchester. Elective orthopaedic surgery will be moved out of Ipswich and transferred to a new centre in Colchester.
I appreciate that the centre has to go somewhere but the merger of the two hospitals must not be allowed to become a zero-sum game. Both sites must improve together, and Ipswich should not lose existing services. This is essentially what is on the cards now with orthopaedics.
On a broader level, I do recognise the potential benefits the merger can bring to Ipswich; including the brand new £35 million A&E department which will open in spring 2022.
I will not hesitate to state my concerns plainly and publicly. I will be writing to the chief executive of the Hospitals Trust and the health secretary this week, asking them to address these concerns in light of the orthopaedic centre announcement.
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The content of the letters will not beat around the bush. Ipswich Hospital is one of the best in the country when it comes to orthopaedic surgery and I'm very nervous that any changes could impact negatively on this. Ipswich has an ageing population and a number of my constituents are, or may one day be, reliant on these services. Many of them have already written to me with their fears.
There are also the practical considerations; with patients needing to get to and from Colchester for their operation. This is not always as simple as just hopping on the train, particularly after an orthopaedic operation.
There have been assurances given to me that initial and follow-up appointments will be in Ipswich, after I made it clear in parliament that this would be a minimum expectation of Ipswich residents. Nevertheless, that one longer journey could be very difficult for patients. We must demand that the Hospitals Trust is able to implement a solid strategy that can alleviate the challenges and anxiety around travelling to another county.
I appreciate that emergency (trauma) surgery will remain at Ipswich Hospital. However, I have concerns about what the impact of transferring elective surgery to Colchester Hospital could have on the quality of the emergency surgery that will continue to be provided at Ipswich Hospital. One of the reasons why the orthopaedic services provided at our hospital are so highly rated is because of the quality of our surgeons. If it is the case that elective surgery is no longer provided at Ipswich Hospital and there is no longer the full array of services in orthopaedics, it becomes even more critical, not less, that the country's best orthopaedic surgeons continue to base themselves at Ipswich Hospital. Staff resources must be considered closely following the announcement.
Finally, patient safety is paramount. My understanding is that ordinarily after a procedure is carried out, the patient has to spend a few days in the hospital recovering. During this time, it is the surgeon who carried out the procedure who also checks up on the patient as much as is possible because there are clear advantages to a close doctor-patient relationship. Under the plans published this week will this be possible? If it is an Ipswich-based surgeon carrying out the operation on an Ipswich-based patient at the centre in Colchester, will that same surgeon be around in Colchester in the days after the operation to do the check-ups?
I very much hope that over the coming weeks the Hospitals Trust is able to alleviate my concerns. If they're not, it would be sensible to explore other options. Instead of spending over £40 million on a stand-alone centre in Colchester, a lot less could be spent simply upgrading the existing facilities at each hospital, so neither town has to lose out when it comes to the provision of service.