We have seen this before. Andy Evans, the CEO of Health East, has already had a “consultation” over the fate of Lowestoft Hospital. Like with the other Community Hospitals, he started building an alternative out-of-town Health Centre before the consultation started in 2013. He offered every service imaginable at Lowestoft’s new centre, with no mention of cost. The alternative was a costly repair at the hospital and no new services. The use of beds in private care homes to replace NHS hospital beds was brushed aside as “not privatisation”.
The plan was then sold on the usual guff: “It is better to treat people at home” ;“The hospital is out of date” etc. It was not surprising that the plan went through, although those who attended the meetings were overwhelm
ingly hostile. What was surprising was the number who voted against the plan. More indicative of local feelings was the snap poll held by Lowestoft Coalition Against the Cuts (LCAC) in the town centre over two days. The answer was overwhelming. Only four out of 194 who answered the simple yes/no question “Do you agree with Health East’s decision to close Lowestoft Hospital?” agreed with the closure. LCAC also printed the CEO’s forecast for the other Community Hospitals: “If it is right for Lowestoft it will be right for them too,” he said in response to our question. No one else Andy Evans printed his reply.
Two years later Lowestoft Hospital is still there but plans for its use are still unclear. Some services are still there and some renovation on part of the building is to go ahead. It is unclear whether this is the promised health centre for the north of the town. Some staff found employment at the James Paget Hospital, others just left. Finding suitable beds in private care homes has unsurprisingly been a problem. The site and the main hospital building will no doubt be sold.
Out-of-hospital teams working from the new Kirkley Mill Health Centre have been hailed as a success. Yet the James Paget Hospital is bursting at the seams and the A&E lead consultant has said that more beds are needed. Lowestoft Hospital used to provide these as do the other Community Hospitals. They should be kept. The country is awash with money. There is more than enough to properly fund the NHS.