Hospital under threat

MARK NICHOLLS A cottage hospital that has served the community in south Norfolk for more than 130 years was last night under threat of closure after health chiefs pulled the plug on funding for beds.

MARK NICHOLLS

A cottage hospital that has served the community in south Norfolk for more than 130 years was last night under threat of closure after health chiefs pulled the plug on funding for beds.

Staff and managers at All Hallows Hospital, Ditchingham, were reeling after Southern Norfolk Primary Care Trust withdrew funding for some beds with immediate effect.

Last Thursday the hospital received notice of the PCT's intention to axe funding for two of the 12 beds it contracted in March, with immediate effect on July 1. In the same notice, the PCT - battling to reduce a £10m deficit - indicated that its allocation would be further reduced to seven beds in October.

An emergency meeting between PCT chair Helen Wilson and Hospital Chairman John Wooddissee was unsuccessful in appealing the proposal, which was formally accepted by the PCT board yesterday afternoon.

The hospital says that the proposal will reduce its income by 11pc per annum immediately, rising to 22pc when the additional beds are withdrawn later this year.

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Mr Wooddissee said: “The reduction of beds against the SNPCT contract represents a significant loss to All Hallows' total income for the year - a loss that the hospital simply cannot recover from in such a short timescale. On top of which, we will be forced into a situation where redundancies are inevitable, though with the timescales attached to the SNPCT's decision, it will be impossible for All Hallows to adhere to legal obligations under the terms of employment law.”

He said the closure of All Hallows will also mean that GP assessment, palliative and post-acute services will be effectively lost, not only to patients from South Norfolk, but also to the communities of Waveney and Great Yarmouth.

All Hallows chief executive Clair Deamer said: “There has been no consultation, and the plain fact is that this decision will effectively close All Hallows Hospital as a Cottage Hospital - not just for South Norfolk patients, but for all those we serve.”

The plan will save the PCT £174,000, as it aims to make £500,000 of savings in the area.

Director of nursing and children's services Val MacQueen said: “What we do now must not affect, or as little as possible, our strategic vision for the care of patients within Southern Norfolk PCT. It is a hard task. The proposals in this paper will not achieve £500,000 worth of savings. It is a start to realising that amount of money.”

Board member Dr John Sampson expressed concerns that the savings were being made in the eastern part of the PCT area.

PCT chief executive Chris Humphris acknowledge that All Hallows was clearly a reduction but added: “We have no flexibility in what we do. It's been made absolutely clear to us this money must come out. We don't have any choice.”