Fight to save Halesworth hospital is lost
- Credit: James Bass
The battle to save a community hospital has been lost.
The decision to officially close Patrick Stead Hospital in Halesworth along with Southwold Hospital was announced at a meeting yesterday.
Great Yarmouth and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group HealthEast launched a public consultation at the start of June proposing the closure of both hospitals, with plans to replace them with out-of-hospital services and beds in care homes.
And yesterday, HealthEast’s governing body sealed the hospitals’ fate by unanimously voting to close both buildings, despite strong public support to save them.
Chief executive Andy Evans insisted the move was “not about cuts” and added it formed part of HealthEast’s strategy for the next 10 to 15 years. He said Patrick Stead could close by 2018.
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However Anne Fleming, chairman of Halesworth Town Council said: “I’m very disappointed. The one light on the horizon I can see is they did say 2018, but I have grave concerns about whether they can sustain the staffing levels until that point.
“Our particular situation in Halesworth is quite difficult because of our large population of over 65s spread over 300 square miles.
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“I hope the plans they put in place work but I’m a bit sceptical. The idea that a team would be called upon to visit somebody in Halesworth and then have to go to Spexhall and then back somewhere north of Halesworth is a tall order but I hope to be proved wrong.”
Mr Evans stressed that none of the closures would be implemented until HealthEast has developed the new services.
He said he “hoped” there would be no staffing issues to threaten an early closure of the hospital before the new services are in place.
He added that HealthEast would work intensively over the next three to six months to develop the new services across its whole area.
“This is about changing the way we provide care for our people,” he said.
“Patients will get better care provided by out-of-hospital teams in their own homes.”
Tony Goldson, Suffolk county councillor for Halesworth, said: “The plans that have been put forward by the CCG to close the hospital once the new facility is open are fine with me providing it meets the standards of care they have promised to give us.
“The hospital was fit for purpose when it was built 100 years ago but now it is ageing and we must not be hung up on the building. What we really need is top end health facilities.”
Asked how much of a difference to the outcome the consultation had made, Mr Evans said HealthEast had taken the views of the public into consideration by recognising the need to develop different models of care for each individual area.
Chairman of the Halesworth Cutlers Hill Surgery Patient Participation Group Malcolm Ballantine said: “The important issue isn’t the actual hospital building, the important issue is maintaining resources for the health and wellbeing of the people of the Halesworth area.”
The move will also see five beds at All Hallows Hospital in Ditchingham close and 15 at Northgate Hospital, Great Yarmouth.
The 21 beds at Beccles Hospital will also cater for longer-term patients with more complex needs than previously.
It is hoped the closures will save HealthEast £4.3m per year and take pressure off the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston.
A protest against the closures was held outside the meeting at HealthEast’s headquaters in Beccles yesterday by members of Lowestoft Against The Cuts.
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