Community hospitals to close doors as planned

Two community hospitals in Suffolk are to close next month despite a directive from health secretary Patricia Hewitt that PCTs must review all community hospital closures in light of last week's White Paper.

The White Paper outlines how the NHS will shift services from acute hospitals into the community. Launching the White Paper, Ms Hewitt told PCTs that they must review planned community hospital closures to ensure closure was not for short-term financial reasons.

However, PCTs in East Suffolk are to go ahead with the closure of hospitals in Eye and Felixstowe.

A third hospital - the Aldeburgh and District community hospital - will only be saved if Dr John Havard, a GP from Saxmundum in Suffolk, succeeds with a novel plan to buy it.

Dr Havard intends to break down the value of the hospital into 'shares' for local people to buy. The initial finance put forward would all be underwritten by the value of the hospital and the land itself. He hopes that the hospital will make money through Payment by Results and practice-based commissioning, and that then people's investment will be repaid.

But Dr Havard said that the share-holders would need to accept that because it was an ethical investment they could never make more money than they put in. Once the loan-holders were repaid, profits would then be reinvested in services.

'It's not a growth investment for a share portfolio but an ethical investment, and because they won't be losing their investment, people can give more money,' he said.

Dr Havard's plan to save the hospital comes in the wake of a community buy-out of a hospital in Cranleigh in Surrey (GP, 4 November 2005), and advice from the cross-party pressure group Community Hospital Acting Nationally Together (CHANT) for GPs to consider legal challenges against local closures (GP, 20 January).

CHANT chairman Graham Stuart, the Conservative MP for Beverley and Holderness in Yorkshire, welcomed the White Paper's commitment to community hospitals but urged local pressure groups to continue.

Carole Taylor-Brown, chief executive of Suffolk East PCTs, defended the decision to close the two hospitals.

'We are planning to close two inpatient community bed facilities because they are no longer clinically viable,' she said.

'However, our programme of reinvestment will see rejuvenated community day and treatment centres at Eye, Aldeburgh, Felixstowe, Ipswich and Stowmarket.'



Immediate Pilots of alternative provider medical services
(APMS) procurements.
PCTs to demonstrate they have followed proper
processes on future of community hospitals.
As early as Best practice tariff for work that could be done

Spring 2006 possible in primary care.
Develop 'local triggers' relating to public
satisfaction and service quality consultation.

Summer 2006 PCTs invited to participate in national APMS
procurement system.
Details on timings and tender process for new
generation of community hospitals.

2006 Project to reduce A&E admissions by 1 million
patients begins.
Information pilots to determine how best to join up
health and social care information.

2006/7 Expanding practice allowance to be considered.
Pilots of patients holding own social care budgets.
Demonstration sites in six specialties to define
models of care for community setting in 12-month

April 2007 Review of PMS funding arrangements reports.
Establish social enterprise fund to provide support
for third-sector suppliers wishing to enter the

2007/8 NHS life check piloted in spearhead PCTs.
Guaranteed acceptance for patients on an open list
and streamlined registration rules.
Changes to closed list rules.
PCTs offering more responsive opening hours.
Extend payment by results to primary care.
Develop and pilot new practitioners with special
interest roles.

2008 Personal health and social care phase for those with
social care needs and a long-term health condition.

2009 Comprehensive single complaints system.

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