Former MP, now peer, raises prospect of locals paying extra £10 a year to improve care
Households should be asked to pay an extra £10 a year or £1 a week to improve care at a small rural community hospitals, a former Suffolk MP has claimed.
Lord Framlingham, formally known as Michael Lord who represented Central Suffolk and North Ipswich until 2010, raised the prospect of 'direct public funding' for Hartismere Health and Care building by 100,000 households in Mid-Suffolk and South Norfolk in a debate in the House of Lords this week.
He suggested that new equipment, such as an x-ray machine, could be bought with the funds.
But the idea of raising extra funds locally was dismissed by Labour as 'out of touch' and health minister, now sitting MP Dan Poulter, maintained that patients should not be charged for NHS services.
Lord Framlingham, a former House of Commons deputy speaker, officially re-opened what is now described as a heath and care centre in 2012 after a £1.5 million redevelopment of the facility. But the peer said it had fallen short of what he had expected it to provide.
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It comes as the plight of the NHS has been highlighted at both a local and national level. Last month the chief executive of Norfolk's largest hospital Anna Dugdale said bed shortages had forced the use of makeshift wards, and she would not want that manner of care for her own mother. Also, as we report today, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn, has been on black alert this week as it struggled to cope with a high number of patients.
Meanwhile, a staffing shortage at the Patrick Stead Hospital, Halesworth, means overnight patients are to be accommodated elsewhere.
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Lord Framlingham said: 'If every household was happy to contribute as little as, say, £10 a year to Hartismere, that would total £1 million. That might well get the hospital an X-ray unit. It is the principle I am interested in. One pound per week per household would produce £5.2 million. Perhaps the Government could provide matched funding, in which case the prospect becomes quite exciting.'
The Hartismere Hospital League of Friends already asks people to contribute £10 a year in a raffle draw, but its chairman Iris Overall said that it was not easy to get people to contribute because they questioned what it was delivering.
While South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon said he would not be in favour of Lord Framlingham's solution, claiming it would have very high collection costs relative to the total amount raised.
Mr Poulter said he was working with the Hartismere League of Friends to encourage more NHS services to be provided there for patients - particularly the frail elderly,
But he said that he did not believe in charging patients for the NHS, and said investment from a Norfolk clinical commissioning group was needed to allow South Norfolk benefit from services and facilities available at Hartismere.
South Norfolk Labour candidate Deborah Sacks said Lord Framlingham's comments showed a 'complete disregard for ordinary people who are struggling with the cost of living on a day to day basis'. 'To add this responsibility to medical staff in the current climate shows how out of touch he is.'
A spokesman for the NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group said 'early discussions' had taken place with South Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group, to identify any possible services which could be provided for south Norfolk residents.
He added; 'We will continue to work with local people, including the Hartismere League of Friends, to ensure the facility remains a valuable provider of NHS services which are free at the point of delivery.'