Use of Felixstowe clinics to increase

HEALTH chiefs today pledged to try to step up the use of clinics at Felixstowe's hospitals after concerns that people were being diverted to Ipswich instead.

HEALTH chiefs today pledged to try to step up the use of clinics at Felixstowe's hospitals after concerns that people were being diverted to Ipswich instead.

Use of the clinics has been declining with some being cancelled because of the small number of patients booked in.

Campaigners fear low usage is a deliberate ploy to try to make the hospital appear less used so it will be easier to close, but Primary Care Trust officials have promised to look into the issue and increase numbers attending.

The action group fighting to save the Bartlet and General hospitals from closure said it would make sense for more people to be seen at Felixstowe – saving people from travelling and saving the PCT money.

Yesterday more than 50 people attended the General for blood tests, and every bed in the Bartlet was full – with patients waiting at Ipswich to take up any beds that become available.

Action group member Ian Heeley said: "This just shows how much both hospitals are needed – where would all those people go for blood tests that take a few minutes – get on buses or drive to Ipswich and wait for ages?"

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More than 20 clinics operate at the General – including eye clinics, speech therapy, leg ulcers, geriatrics, anti-natal and teenage sexual health sessions – but many residents are baffled at why some people are sent to the hospital and others to Ipswich for appointments.

Latest PCT figures show usage ranges from an average of two patients per session for audiology to 25 patients for ear, nose and throat.

Alan Wimhurst, president of the League of Friends of Felixstowe Hospitals, said: "The clinics are very under-utilised and we cannot understand why that should be so – surely it's just a management issue.

"All a consultant has to do is look at the patient's postcode on their file and see it says IP11 and book them in at Felixstowe.

"There is no need for those people to go to Ipswich – they can be seen here."

Suffolk Coastal PCT vice chairman Martin Smith agreed and said clinics needed increasing and not axing.

He persuaded the board to take immediate action to increase usage, though chief executive Carole Taylor-Brown would not promise all clinics would continue if they could not be used effectively.

After visiting Felixstowe General to see for the first time the hospital built by her great-grandfather, Gillian Ib could not believe the state it was in – and claimed it was a missed opportunity.

She said: "It is in an awful state – I was very shocked. There is so much needs doing to it and I think it has been neglected.

"The health authorities should have been investing in this building, putting more services into it and making it a proper hospital for Felixstowe.

"When my great-grandfather built that hospital there were only 1,839 residents living in the area. Look at how many people live in Felixstowe – more than 32,000 – and yet they are thinking of closing it.

"It is not just the older people who need the care, the younger people have to be made aware and I am desperate for the young people to get on board and it is important that they are involved."

n. Have you been made to travel to Ipswich to use clinics available in Felixstowe? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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