Fears over future of children’s healthcare in Norfolk

More children's healthcare could move out of Norfolk to Cambridge if a �120m specialist paediatric hospital gets the go-ahead, hospital chiefs fear.

Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge is looking into a plan to build the new children's hospital for the entire East of England because it says the region is the only one in England without such a facility. It argues the new hospital could save �10m a year for the NHS by enabling children to be treated closer to home, rather than travelling to Birmingham or London's Great Ormond Street Hospital.

But the chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said he feared the move could see some of the specialist children's services offered in Norfolk move away and accused Cambridge of 'trying to hoover everything up from the East of England'. David Prior said: 'We have a fantastically successful and busy hospital called the Jenny Lind in Norwich. We have a very big population we serve in Norfolk and north Suffolk – plenty big enough to sustain a successful, thriving children's hospital.

'None of us will stand idly by and see our children's hospital put at risk by a new service in Cambridge.

'If you are a mother with a young child you do not want to travel all the way to Cambridge or London, unless there's a particular reason why it can't be offered closer to home.'

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Mr Prior added: 'Reading between the lines, in order to justify a big capital spend on a new hospital, they would have to bring in a lot of children from all over the Eastern area to support the finances required to build it.' Executives are currently preparing the business case for the children's hospital, which could open in 2016 if directors of the Cambridge trust decide at a meeting in April to go ahead with the plan.

Dr Gareth Goodier, chief executive of Cambridge University Hospitals, which runs Addenbrooke's, said: 'The proposed plan would be just that – a specialist hospital for patients needing the highest level of care. At the moment these patients have to travel to London and further afield.

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'We would expect normal paediatric services to continue at other hospitals in the region. The business case for the new hospital does not rely upon non-specialist care in neighbouring hospitals moving to Cambridge.'

But the N&N says it all depends on what is classed as specialist care, and that it currently offers specialist children's services in Norfolk. It has four consultant paediatric surgeons, and says losing some specialist services could have a knock-on effect on other departments, such as its neo-natal unit.

All children's intrathecal chemotherapy (lumbar puncture) services has already switched to Addenbrooke's since January.

Previously they had been available at the N&N, but the East of England Specialised Commissioning Group (SCG) decided that because new standards had been published the lumbar punctures would have to be carried out at the region's principal treatment centre, Addenbrooke's.

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