In 2013 a decision was made to close and sell off Lowestoft Hospital. A public meeting called by the Great Yarmouth and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group overwhelmingly opposed the plan. In a straw poll carried out by Lowestoft Coalition Against the Cuts 190 out of 194 opposed the closure. Nonetheless the plan to replace the hospital with out-of-hospital teams and beds in private care homes went ahead.
The proposal also promised a medical centre in the north of the town to replace the lost hospital services. Five years later this still hasn’t happened. The proposed site in the Woods Meadow housing development in Oulton is apparently inadequate, particularly given the amount of parking needed.
The “Community Beds Provision” is also in disarray. Ambulances routinely queue outside the James Paget Hospital, partly the consequence of inadequate provision for patients who are ready to leave. The verdict on using beds in private care homes is damning. In a paper presented to the Governing Body of the James Paget Hospital, GPs reported that “patients were discharged with the wrong care, to the wrong place at the wrong time”. Yet spending on this failed scheme is to be more than doubled. It will cost well over a million pounds a year to rent beds in this notoriously unstable and unreliable sector.
Lowestoft Hospital is boarded up and being allowed to fall into disrepair. After failed attempts to find a buyer that would respect the building’s heritage it is now to be put up for auction with only “flexible” conditions. Selling off this fine building, a valued asset to the local community, is deeply resented.
The decision to close Lowestoft Hospital was wrong but can be remedied. The hospital can provide beds and house the medical services promised for a north Lowestoft medical centre. Unlike the Oulton site it is ideally located both for patients and for clinical staff. Doesn’t it make sense forpatients to be located alongside clinical staff and not scattered around the area in care homes? The NHS already owns the site: there is no reason to spend money on land and more buildings elsewhere, spend it on the hospital instead. Why plough ahead with a failed plan?