Money at heart of cottage hospital plans

It is all about money was the resounding murmur of nearly 200 people leaving a protest meeting about the future of Norfolk's cottage hospitals on Saturday.

It is all about money was the resounding murmur of nearly 200 people leaving a protest meeting about the future of Norfolk's cottage hospitals on Saturday.

It was the first chance for North Walsham residents to question a leading county health executive about a proposal to axe 120 of 227 community beds in Norfolk as the Primary Care Trust tries to reduce its £50m deficit.

It was a shot across the PCT's bow from the Save our Hospital campaign.

The message from Mark Taylor, the PCT's director of services, was that to be more cost efficient there would need to be fewer smaller hospitals, like those at North Walsham, Cromer and Holt, and fewer people admitted to hospital in Norwich.

He said there was a need for more nurses offering 24-hour, seven-days-a-week care, but that more cash would be needed.

He said: “It is a question of balancing how much care we are providing at home as opposed to in hospital.”

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Joe Turner, who chaired the meeting, said a delegation from the Save our Hospital group was due to meet health secretary Patricia Hewitt.

“This is only the start,” he said. “We must keep campaigning.”

Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, said the government should be lobbied to give the rural PCT more cash.