Saturday, March 15, 2014
The inpatient unit at Lowestoft Hospital is set to close by the end of this month as part of major overhaul of NHS services in the town, it emerged this week.
The news that the 25 inpatient beds at the hospital are expected to go by the end of March was confirmed by HealthEast, the clinical commissioning group for Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
The bed closures – which will affect 63 members of staff – form part of the strategy to create a new “out of hospital” care team based at the £6m Kirkley Mill health site in south Lowestoft, which is due to open to the public next month.
As part of HealthEast’s plans to deliver what it calls “exceptional and sustainable health services” for Lowestoft, £50,000 is being spent on refurbishing the north wing of Lowestoft Hospital as a temporary arrangement so patients can carry on using its phlebotomy and outpatient services while the site’s long-term future is discussed.
Last September, a board meeting of HealthEast endorsed a recommendation to close the hospital in Tennyson Road by this autumn – ending more than 150 years’ service to the local community – and to move some services to Kirkley Mill.
However, confirmation that all the inpatient beds are set to close so soon has come as surprise to Lowestoft Coalition Against the Cuts (LCAC) which campaigned to save the hospital from closure. It has also complained to the watchdog Healthwatch Suffolk about the way in which the public consultation over the shake-up of local NHS services has been organised.
Chris Brooks, of LCAC, said: “This is all a bit sudden and a surprise. We were all led to believe the hospital would close in six months’ time.
“We don’t believe that outreach nursing teams can more effectively treat patients at their homes than at the hospital.”
The Friends of Lowestoft Hospital raised funds for the hospital for several decades, with the town’s carnival and its street parade bringing in thousands of pounds.
A spokesman for the friends said: “It will obviously be a sad time for the staff and for many of our members of the friends when the hospital actually closes. It has been dear to our hearts for a long time.”
HealthEast says that 10 of the 25 beds at the inpatient unit will be transferred to the James Paget University Hospital and most of the 63 staff have been found new roles at Gorleston.
The remaining staff will be offered help in finding suitable alternative employment.
The new out of hospital care team based at Kirkley Mill will be provided by East Coast Community Healthcare in partnership with Suffolk County Council.
HealthEast is also in the process of buying NHS-funded beds at local care homes for patients who need short term support close to home.
The Kirkley Mill site will provide a wide range of health services such as podiatry, physiotherapy, occupational and speech and language therapy. GPs will also be based there and it will have 30 consulting rooms and a triage centre.
Possible plans for the Lowestoft Hospital site include a “very sheltered” housing block and a new health facility to take over from the north wing.
Andy Evans, chief executive of HealthEast, said: “This is a really exciting time for healthcare in Lowestoft. Our vision is that patients in Lowestoft will have modern healthcare, where possible at home or from modern buildings in the north and south of the town.”
During a public consultation organised by HealthEast, 67pc of people who responded said they supported an option to move of services to Kirkley Rise and the closure of the hospital.