Community hospitals win temporary reprieve

Two community hospitals in Suffolk have been granted a temporary reprieve because their cases have been referred to the health secretary.

The hospitals in Eye and Felixstowe were due to close this month, despite a directive from health secretary Patricia Hewitt that PCTs must review all community hospital closures in light of the primary care White Paper (GP, 10 February).

Councillors on Suffolk County Council's health overview and scrutiny committee have decided to refer the matter to the health secretary because it believes Suffolk East PCT did not consult the public adequately over the closure decision.

Graham Stuart, Conservative MP for Beverley and Holderness in Yorkshire and chairman of Community Hospitals Acting Nationally Together (CHANT), which has been campaigning against hospital closures, welcomed the reprieve but said it was an isolated example.

'We are dismayed that closures are going ahead and are still being driven by financial, not health, considerations,' he said.

Mr Stuart also gave Fairford and Westbury hospitals in Wiltshire as examples of hospitals under threat of closure.

Mr Stuart's comments came as health minister Lord Warner admitted at a conference in London this month that some community hospital closures were a cause for concern.

'Community hospitals must not be lost to short-term budget measures and there is a flavour of that in some cases,' he said.

Mr Stuart called for greater public consultation over closures. He said that it was up to SHAs to manage PCTs and refer them to the DoH where closures were not in the best interests of long-term patient care.

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