Crunch day for district hospitals

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Health chiefs will today formally propose a shake-up of Norfolk's community hospitals which would see 43 beds cut and a greater focus on home care.Campaigners opposed to the cuts are expected to turn out at the special board meeting of Norfolk Primary Care Trust at the UEA Sportspark.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Health chiefs will today formally propose a shake-up of Norfolk's community hospitals which would see 43 beds cut and a greater focus on home care.

Campaigners opposed to the cuts are expected to turn out at the special board meeting of Norfolk Primary Care Trust at the UEA Sportspark.

But while some are set to hand in petitions urging the PCT to rethink its plans, others favour localised protests when the trust carries out drop-in meetings in the areas affected.

The plan has produced a crop of "winners" and "losers" with Dereham Hospital earmarked as the home for a new 40-bed specialist stroke unit which also includes 26 rehabilitation beds.

But smaller units such as Cranmer House in Fakenham, St Michael's Hospital in Aylsham and Benjamin Court in Cromer are not only set to lose their beds but could also see existing health services moved to other units.

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Celia Lee, chairman of the Friends of Cranmer House, said: "I feel it's a whitewash - we weren't consulted."

At North Walsham, Joe Turner, a district councillor who is spearheading a campaign against transfer of its services to Kelling, near Cromer, said he was appalled that communities had been pitted against one another.

"It shouldn't be a contest at all, both areas need the beds," he said. "It's not about people, it's about money, we all know that."

Joe Murray, mayor of Wymondham, who is leading the fight against proposals to close all beds at Ogden Court in the town, said protesters had collected a 3,000-signature petition urging the PCT to rethink its plans.

"There's a great deal of anger in the town about the plans," he said.

Today's meeting will mark the start of a 90-day consultation about the plans.