Hospital cutbacks under scrutiny

Cost-cutting plans at a health trust which is closing hospital beds will be examined by councillors next month.

Cost-cutting plans at a health trust which is closing hospital beds will be examined by councillors next month.

Waveney and Yarmouth Primary Care Trust, which needs to make £7.7m of savings by the end of March, announced on Wednesday that it is closing beds at the Patrick Stead Hospital in Hales-worth until the beginning of April.

And on January 8 - the very day that the hospital beds close - county and district councillors in Suffolk will scrutinise the trust's plans to save money. They will decide how to monitor the effect of cost-cutting on services and also whether to express their concerns to the East of England Strategic Health Authority, which oversees all NHS services in the region.

The agenda for the scrutiny meeting says: "When the Great Yarmouth and Waveney PCT was formed on October 1, 2006, it was believed to be in a sound financial position… It is the committee responsibility to ensure that when implementing its recovery plan the trust does not disadvantage the citizens in its locality."

A report from the PCT's chief executive, Mike Stonard, said that it inherited £11m of "recovery plans" - savings the trusts were supposed to make, £7m from Yarmouth and £4m from Waveney. But some of them were deemed unlikely to happen, undeliverable or had actually been counted twice. It meant the trust is due to spend £5.1m more than its budget when it has actually been ordered to spend £2.6m less than its budget.

Mr Stonard describes the trust's position as "extremely challeng-ing".

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The surprise announcement that the Patrick Stead beds will close has angered many people in Halesworth, who fear that it could have longer-term repercussions. Town council chairman Alan Holzer has vowed to do whatever he can to stop the closure.

He said: "A massive amount of money has gone into that hospital from local people."