Communities pledge to save hospitals

Determined community leaders pledged to fight for their local hospitals after Norfolk PCT announced bed cuts designed to reduce debts.

Determined community leaders pledged to fight for their local hospitals after Norfolk PCT announced bed cuts designed to reduce debts.

Up to half of the PCT's community beds could go in the move, which has also drawn an angry response from health professionals.

One Norfolk GP said he was “absolutely furious” at the decision - and said he had no faith in promises that community services would be improved to meet patients' needs.

The EDP reported on Saturday that as many as 120 of the county's 227 beds in nine community hospitals were under threat - despite a £750m funding package having been promised by central government just three months ago.

Dr Graham Clark, a GP based at Loddon, said community hospitals were a vital part of the care system in Norfolk.

“The PCT is putting on its own spin and saying that more community care will be available in people's homes but there just aren't the resources for it,” he said. “The district nursing staff are fantastic but they don't have the resources

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“When elderly and vulnerable people get ill they often get incontinent, confused and muddled. Community hospitals offer the kind of 24-hour care they need in that situation, which no community care can provide,” he added. “There are overnight arrangements but there simply are not enough carers to do the job effectively.”

Dr Clark added that it was more cost effective to keep community beds open than to shut them and only leave the option of acute hospital beds, which are more expensive.

A community physiotherapist, who did not want to be named, said cutting beds at Dereham Hosptial and Norwich Community Hospital was “ridiculous when so much has been invested to create first class services”.

Ursula Cheetham, mayor of Dereham, said a strong pressure group was already in place and was committed to fighting for local hospital services.

“The friends group has almost raised enough money for a baby scanner and this kind of facility is something the town desperately needs to have,” she said. “And it means older people can be visited without their relatives having to travel into Norwich.”

Liz Jones, chairman of Aylsham Town Council, said the town would not stand for more cuts at St Michael's hospital in the town.

“People are not going to sit down to this,” she said. “There are many people who rely on the hospital for palliative and respite care and it is regarded very highly by the community.

“It is not long since it was downsized, and with talk of changes or cuts at North Walsham as well, you are left asking where people are going to end up,” she added.

Joe Mooney, mayor of Wymondham, was similarly scathing about any bed cuts at Ogden Court in the town.

“We worked hard to get that facility in the first place and I will work very hard and

do whatever I can to keep it,” he said. “It's a busy place that is important to the people of the town.”