Father forgives drink-driver after crash

The father of two teenage girls killed in a road accident spoke yesterday of how he has forgiven the drink-driver who admitted causing the crash.Phil Stoddart spoke of his pity for Ben Morphey - the day after the EDP reported that the 22-year-old army corporal had admitted causing the accident at Blythburgh, near Southwold, last year.

Proposals to close some community hospitals and cut bed numbers have been met with an overwhelming "no" in a poll by a Norfolk patients' watchdog.

More than 97pc of people surveyed by the Norfolk Patient and Public Involve-ment Forum (PPIF) voted against plans to cull beds and hospitals and offer more care in the home.

Norfolk Primary Care Trust has proposed cutting the number of community beds across Norfolk from 201 to 158 and the closure of Cranmer House at Fakenham, St Michael's Hospital at Aylsham and Cromer's Benjamin Court.

The PCT has a debt of £47m, and the proposals would save about £1.3m a year.

Ironically, the PCT's own consultation ended yesterday and the trust is expected to debate the outcome in July.

But a total of 1,000 people out of 1,025 questioned by the PPIF - which exists to ensure the public is involved in decision making about health services - stated there should not be a reduction in community hospital beds in the county.

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And two-thirds said there should not be an increase in patients being cared for at home with appropriate medical support.

However, the questionnaires were distributed at the PCT consultation meetings - focal points for opposition to the plans - as well as being handed out house to house and at shops.

It was not clear last night what proportion who took part in the survey were already against the plans.

Respondents were also invited to make comments to back up their answers and many concerns over the quality of care that would be provided at home under the restructuring and the lack of local hospital resources were raised. In addition, a number of people questioned the process undertaken by the PCT in reaching its decision and in particular the consultation.

A respondent wrote: "There is no consultation - just a presentation of decisions already made."

A total of 7.4pc of respondents said that they were in favour of the proposals in principle but had reservations.

Many stressed the importance of putting any new services in place before any beds were withdrawn.

"Caring for people at home after a hospital admission is beneficial in that they are in their own environment but it can often be very isolating for them if they live alone," said one respondent.

Specific points raised included whether sufficient appropriately trained staff would be available, the need for care to be available 24 hours a day, how many homes were actually suitable for the provision of nursing care and how they would deal with incontinence issues.