Hospital to reopen

Halesworth's community hospital is on track to reopen next month - but health chiefs will not commit to a date or even say what the reopening depends on.

Halesworth's community hospital is on track to reopen next month - but health chiefs will not commit to a date or even say what the reopening depends on.

Beds at the Patrick Stead Hospital closed in January in response to staff shortages and a lack of cash.

The body which runs it, Waveney and Yarmouth Primary Care Trust (PCT), still needs to find £13m of savings, in theory by the end of the current financial year. But the trust says it plans to reopen the hospital early in the new financial year, which starts in April.

No-one at the trust would be interviewed or give a date for when the hospital would reopen. A spokesman said: "We are making preparations for reopening the beds very early in the financial year."

Staff are due to attend training on Monday ready for the reopening. While the hospital has been closed nurses have worked in Beccles, Lowestoft or in the community.

The hospital will reopen with new beds, purchased by the League of Friends. The old beds were too wide to fit through the hospital's doors which meant patients could not be moved on beds in an emergency.

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The hospital has space for 20 beds, and there were hopes that it would reopen with a full complement, but it will do so with 12 - the same number as when it closed.

Jean MacHeath, chairman of the League of Friends, said: "We have given authorisation for up to 19 but they have purchased 12 at the moment, because they have to reopen the hospital with the number of beds they had before."

She said the closure had been "very inconvenient", adding: "It has cost more as well because of patients going up to the James Paget."

The James Paget University Hospital at Gorleston is 25 miles away, making Halesworth the English town furthest from a general hospital.

The League of Friends supporters' group now has more than 2,000 members, nearly half Halesworth's population.