Health East’s consultation on the future of community hospitals has concluded. Only 21% supported the closure of hospitals in Southwold and Halesworth; even fewer wanted the beds in Northgate and All Hallows scrapped. The consultation was an unquestioned success. Extra meetings were needed to cater for demand and over 1100 returned the detailed questionnaire. This is an overwhelming verdict.
Out of hospital teams are good for some but hospital beds are needed for others, both for minor treatments and for convalescence close to home. Lowestoft Hospital has already gone and the 21 beds retained in Beccles to service vast swathes of Norfolk and Suffolk are too few and too distant. There is already critical pressure on the James Paget hospital. The lead consultant in A&E, Duncan Peacock, says it is an illusion that the NHS can work with fewer beds: “The reality is we need more beds.”
The NHS is faced with an increase in the number of particularly elderly patients, yet it was told to find £20bn of “efficiency savings” over five years. Staff paid for this through frozen salaries. Now they have to find another £20bn. It needs adequate funding not cuts.
The purpose of the plan put forward by Health East’s CEO Andy Evans is cut £4.3m from the health budget. Closing and selling off hospital buildings and sending patients to private care homes is the Evans’ formula. In Reyden, near Southwold, the NHS is proving land for a care home. In Halesworth land acquired for public use will be built on. Andy Evans boasts of his decision to consult. Will he abide by the results or will closures and privatisation be forced upon us?
The NHS And Social Care
It isn’t just community hospitals. The local mental health trust is in special measures and in massive debt; the James Paget Hospital faces escalating deficits and is in official dispute with Health East over funding. Two surgeries in Lowestoft, one in the vaunted new health centre, have been closed down by court order. Nine Lowestoft care homes are failing the CQC’s criteria; some have failed repeatedly yet they remain open. Care at home is already skeletal. In a country which is awash with ostentatious wealth the funding for all these services is being cut further. Join LCAC to fight the cuts and privatisations.