Top docs fear for hospital

FEARS for the future of Ipswich Hospital were reaching a peak today among worried consultants.

FEARS for the future of Ipswich Hospital were reaching a peak today among worried consultants.

In the next few days a dramatic letter from more than 100 top doctors at the Heath Road site will be released, setting out their concerns about what they believe is the gradual downgrading of the hospital.

The unprecedented move comes after head and neck cancer surgery was scrapped at Ipswich Hospital last year, as the NHS plans to move pancreatic cancer surgery from the site, and as a decision which will see emergency heart attack victims no longer treated at the hospital is pushed through - all moves revealed by The Evening Star.

The medics are also concerned about the hospital's failure to win key contracts such as sexual health services and more work for the world-class diabetes centre.

The open letter calls on health bosses to provide a strategic vision for the hospital, setting out clearly if they envisage specialist services being provided in Ipswich.

Consultant rheumatologist Richard Watts, chairman of the consultant medical staff committee, who has co-ordinated the letter, said: “There are concerns about the downgrading of the hospital if we continue to lose more specialist services.

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“It has been grumbling along for the last six to 12 months and each time there is another review it bubbles up again.

“This is a big step and we hope it will have an impact. We hope the Strategic Health Authority and NHS Suffolk are able to reassure the population of east Suffolk about the future of the hospital.

“We are supportive of the trust, its management, and the bid to be a foundation trust.”

Dr Watts, who has worked at the hospital for 15 years, said he feared some colleagues would leave unless they were given assurances about the hospital's future, and added that it would also become increasingly difficult to recruit expert doctors.

He said yesterday that 105 consultants had signed the letter, which is currently on its eighth draft, and he hoped 120 of the 150 consultants would eventually add their name to the statement.

A spokesman for the SHA said: “We wish to stress that Ipswich Hospital has a bright future as a district general hospital serving people in east Suffolk and in certain specialist areas, such as radiotherapy, gynaecological cancer and spinal surgery, as a centre of excellence for a wider population.”

Are you worried about the future of Ipswich Hospital? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail