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Future fears for hospital in Suffolk

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Fears have been raised by public sector chiefs that the move of orthopaedic surgery out of Ipswich Hospital could lead to a further exodus of services in future.

The concerns were heard at last week’s meeting of Suffolk Public Sector Leaders – a gathering of all the county’s council leaders and chief executives – in which the wording of the consultation to base the orthopaedic centre out of Colchester Hospital was raised.

According to several leaders, the consultation documents suggest that growth at the Ipswich Hospital site is limited – an argument which could be applied to future projects.

845577072 (30778774)
845577072 (30778774)

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere said: “There is a wider issue around the reasons that have been used to concentrate this service at Colchester Hospital.

“They are arguments that will always apply so if other services are being looked at to merge in future, these arguments could always be used to move services out of Ipswich Hospital.

“We haven’t seen enough detail in the business case to be able to challenge that, we want to see the full business case so that we can see if that is the case or not, and that is what we will be looking to do over the next few weeks.

“Certainly as the borough council we will be making a case and encourage the other council leaders to do the same.

“But if we do all come to the same conclusions on this, which I hope we will, I think as public sector leaders we ought to lobby to try and keep services in Ipswich Hospital.”

Alongside those concerns, issues were raised around patients in Suffolk having to travel further.

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks added: “What we want to make sure is we have what is best for Ipswich and best for Suffolk and the appropriate services, so we will continue to lobby for what we think is best for Suffolk.”

But bosses at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust which runs both Colchester and Ipswich hospitals have defended the rationale, and pointed to investment in the new A&E centre, urgent treatment centre and other facilities.

Dr Shane Gordon, director of strategy said: “We are proposing to build an orthopaedic surgical centre at Colchester Hospital.

“The £44million that we have been allocated is to build a centre as well as re-develop the day surgery unit at Colchester Hospital.

“During the development of the proposals, options for building at Ipswich Hospital were fully considered and discounted.

“Space would be available to build the centre at Ipswich but, in order to locate it close to other facilities and services, it would mean moving and re-providing other buildings elsewhere on the site. This re-provision would either take cost from the £44m budget or require additional funding that is not available.

“Our research has shown that there will be more people living in the Colchester area so demand for these services will increase. Putting the centre at Colchester would see fewer people disadvantaged in terms of access.”

Dr Gordon added that it was not the whole of the orthopaedics services that would move, only planned surgery provision, and that emergency care outpatient, therapy, pre-assessment for surgery and diagnostics would still be available in Ipswich.