Henry is back on his feet

MARK NICHOLLS He may need a wheeled walking frame - but stroke victim Henry Jones is standing on his own two feet again. And the 83-year-old puts much of his recovery down to a vital three-week stay in a community hospital bed.

MARK NICHOLLS

He may need a wheeled walking frame - but stroke victim Henry Jones is standing on his own two feet again.

And the 83-year-old puts much of his recovery down to a vital three-week stay in a community hospital bed.

Henry is living proof of the importance of community beds and demonstrates just why the EDP's Save Our Beds campaign is critical in maintaining standards of intermediate healthcare across Norfolk.

Norfolk Primary Care Trust meets today to discuss plans that could see the closure of some of the nine community hospitals in its area and up to 120 of the 227 beds in those units being axed.

The cash-strapped PCT - up to £50m in debt - wants to treat more people in their own homes, rather than see them spend a period of rehabilitation in a cottage hospital

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But strong opposition is expected at the meeting at the Ecotech Centre at Swaffham with supporters of the affected hospitals staging protests and handing in petitions.

When Henry suffered his stroke in June he had three weeks in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and was then - still hardly able to move his left side - moved to Benjamin Court in Cromer.

After three weeks of round-the-clock care and physiotherapy he was able to return home to High Kelling near Holt followed up by home visits from the community team towards the end of his recovery.

But he says the spell in Benjamin Court was vital and provided him with the kind of support he would not have received with home visits alone.

“Everything is geared up to helping you get better,” he said. “There is no way I could have got better as quickly at home.”

Yet it is these kind of beds the PCT wants to cut back on - beds that can and will save lives.

The trust faces a tough battle ahead as protestors from Dereham, Fakenham, Cromer, Norwich, Swaffham, North Walsham, Aylsham, Kelling and Wymondham gear up for a long battle as the plans go out to public consultation.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, who is campaigning to save the beds and hospitals, has called on health secretary Patricia Hewitt to stand by a commitment she made to community hospital facilities during a debate in January.

The health secretary told the Commons: “Community facilities that are needed for the long term must not be lost in response to short-term budgetary pressures.”

That warning appears to have gone unheard at PCT headquarters. And Patricia Hewitt has also so far declined to intervene in the fight to help save community hospitals and their beds across Norfolk.