Save Our Beds march clogs resort

The centre of Cromer ground to a halt as demonstrators launched a last ditch plea to keep their community hospital beds open.

The centre of Cromer ground to a halt as demonstrators launched a last-ditch plea to keep their community hospital beds open.

About 50 people went on a protest march through the town on Saturday in a bid to make health bosses change their plans about close 18 beds which they say are vital in caring for the increasing number of elderly people in the area.

The Norfolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) proposal to shut Benjamin Court as part of a major reorganisation of community care beds in the county has drawn anger from people in and around Cromer who fear they will be forced to travel to other towns and Norwich for treatment.

Police blocked off roads as the placard-waving marchers walked from the Meadow car park to Benjamin Court which is threatened with closure despite estimates that the number of people aged over 75 in the region will increase by 94 pc in the next 21 years.

March organiser Michele Nash, who runs a care home and is an ex-district nurse, said: "We desperately want those beds to stay open in Cromer.

"We need Benjamin Court because north Norfolk has one of the highest populations of elderly people in the country and that figure will just keep increasing."

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The PCT, which is £47m in debt, wants to close Benjamin Court as part of a money-saving scheme to cut the number of beds in Norfolk from 201 down to 158.

In bid to slash more than £1m from its bills the PCT is also looking at closing beds in Fakenham, Swaffham and Wymondham so it can concentrate services at Dereham and Norwich.

Either Kelling or Aylsham hospitals will lose their beds in a head-to-head bid to stay open.

Health chiefs say the moves will help provide a better service to its patients, many of who will be treated at their homes instead of clogging up community beds.

Norman Lamb, MP for north Norfolk, who joined the march, said: "People are very cynical and believe that the PCT has already made up its mind on the consultation.

"But we have all got to keep fighting to the very last minute to try and save this important and excellent site."

The PCT 90-day public consultation on reforming community beds ended last Tuesday and the authority's board is due to decide on the changes in a meeting later in the summer.

Mark Taylor, PCT director of provider services, said: "We would like to provide more beds in bigger units and ensure that our services are future proof.

"No final decisions have been made."

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