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Campaign launched to reopen Lowestoft hospital

PUBLISHED: 07:00 06 October 2018

Lowestoft Hospital. Photo: Nick Butcher.

Lowestoft Hospital. Photo: Nick Butcher.

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A campaign has been launched to reopen Lowestoft Hospital following the announcement it will be auctioned off in the coming months.

The old Lowestoft hospital. Picture: Nick ButcherThe old Lowestoft hospital. Picture: Nick Butcher

The decision to close the hospital was made in 2013, with the building closing for the final time in 2016.

The campaign has been launched by Lowestoft Coalition against the Cuts and Waveney Trades Union Congress (TUC) and will include an exhibition on the historical and social importance of the hospital, followed by a public meeting.

In a joint letter sent to this newspaper by the two organisations, the groups state the ongoing reorganisation of the NHS, the and policy of commissioning beds in private care homes alongside the lack of a medical centre in north Lowestoft as reasons behind the campaign.

Frank Joyce, secretary of Lowestoft Coalition against the Cuts, said: “The main reason is that we think the closure of the hospital and putting people in private care homes has been a failure whichever way you look at it.

“Some people are very regretful that the hospital is being left to fall into disrepair because it is a very fine building.”

He added: “We think it isn’t too late to reverse that decision. The hospital could be restored and it could be the ideal location and facilities for both a medical centre and to help tackle the lack of beds.

“This concentration on the hospital is an attempt to get people’s mind back on the NHS and to throw some light on what is happening alongside it.”

Cath Byford, deputy chief officer and director of commissioning with NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The NHS nationally is striving to keep people out of hospital wherever possible by providing robust and flexible services within the community.

“The Lowestoft out of hospital team was introduced to ensure people could receive the right care and support to meet their needs outside of a hospital setting.”

She added: “It has been providing an excellent service to local people since it was set up in 2014 and receives consistently good feedback from those receiving care and their families.

“Together with the beds with care which we have commissioned for those who need additional short-term support, we are confident that it is providing a high quality service for local people.”

Letter

“Lowestoft Hospital not Woods Meadow.

“In 2013 a decision was made to close and sell off Lowestoft Hospital. A public meeting called by the Great Yarmouth and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group overwhelmingly opposed the plan. In a straw poll carried out by Lowestoft Coalition against the Cuts 190 out of 194 opposed the closure. Nonetheless the plan to replace the hospital with out-of-hospital teams and beds in private care homes went ahead.

“The proposal also promised a medical centre in the north of the town to replace the lost hospital services. Five years later this still hasn’t happened. The proposed site in the Woods Meadow housing development in Oulton is apparently inadequate, particularly given the amount of parking needed.

“The “Community Beds Provision” is also in disarray. Ambulances routinely queue outside the James Paget Hospital partly the consequence of inadequate provision for patients who are ready to leave. The verdict on using beds in private care homes is damning. In a paper presented to the Governing Body of the James Paget Hospital GPs reported that “patients were discharged with the wrong care, to the wrong place at the wrong time.” Yet spending on this failed scheme is to be more than doubled. “It will cost well over a million pounds a year to rent beds in this notoriously unstable and unreliable sector.

Lowestoft Hospital is boarded up and being allowed to fall into disrepair. After failed attempts to find a buyer that would respect the building’s heritage it is now to be put up for auction with only “flexible” conditions. Selling off this fine building, a valued asset to the local community, is deeply resented.

“The decision to close Lowestoft Hospital was wrong but can be remedied. The hospital can provide beds and house the medical services promised for a north Lowestoft medical centre. Unlike the Oulton site it is ideally located both for patients and for clinical staff. Doesn’t it make sense for patients to be located alongside clinical staff and not scattered around the area in care homes? The NHS already owns the site: there is no reason to spend money on land and more buildings elsewhere, spend it on the hospital instead. Why plough ahead with a failed plan?

Lowestoft Coalition against the Cuts and Waveney TUC”

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