'Joined-up thinking needed' over north Norfolk hospitals

COST-cutting options for new hospitals in Cromer and North Walsham would put extra stress on bed-blocked wards at Norwich and ignore the pressures caused by a growing north Norfolk population and scant rural transport services, a feisty public meeting heard.

COST-cutting options for new hospitals in Cromer and North Walsham would put extra stress on bed-blocked wards at Norwich and ignore the pressures caused by a growing north Norfolk population and scant rural transport services, a feisty public meeting heard.

Distrust of health service decision-makers, and frustration at a lack of 'joined-up thinking' constantly boiled to the surface as chiefs were quizzed by about 70 people during the North Norfolk Older People's Forum event last Thursday.

They wanted to know why the preferred option for Cromer would now see only the �15m Bernstein and Cox legacy cash spent on a new hospital, rather than the long-expected �25m building, with the loss of endoscopy and general anaesthetic surgery to Norwich.

And why there had been no public consultation on a recently-revealed option of replacing North Walsham Memorial Cottage Hospital with NHS beds in a care home - a scheme which could be recommended by NHS Norfolk's board at their meeting in King's Lynn next Tuesday.

Taking the floor at the North Walsham Community Centre meeting were Julie Cave, director of resources at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital which is responsible for Cromer Hospital, and Graham Copsey, assistant director of estates commissioning with NHS Norfolk, which runs the county's community hospitals including North Walsham.

Each was only able to answer questions about plans for their own hospital, prompting one member of the audience to say: 'This is the problem. There's no joined-up thinking about what services the whole area needs.'

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The meeting came as consultations continued over the Cromer plans, through a questionnaire which asks if health chiefs have made the right decisions in prioritising services for the hospital - and what could be removed in order to keep endoscopy at the site.

It also asks people to voice their views on concerns and perceptions about patient benefits.

Comments on the Cromer Hospital proposals must be made before December 18. Ring 01603 287200 or email communications@nnuh.nhs.uk

To register views on North Walsham Hospital either write to: FREEPOST RRTX-RHYX-RYZG, NHS Norfolk, Communications and Patient and Public Involvement, Lakeside, 400 Old Chapel Way, Broadland Business Park, NR7 0WG or email: yourviewsmatter@norfolk.nhs.uk

Cromer Hospital

THERE is not enough money to provide everything people want at Cromer Hospital, according to Julie Cave.

A review of all NHS services was under way as central government funding would effectively be cut from 2010, with a 0pc increase for the following three years and, beyond that, an anticipated 20pc reduction, slashing �80m from the trust's budget.

But Mrs Cave pledged that the legacy money was ring-fenced: 'People are worried that we are going to 'grab' it and use it in Norwich but we cannot do that. That money was given for Cromer. It cannot be spent on anything else. End of,' she said.

'I started at the trust four months ago and have been involved with the development of Cromer Hospital from day one. If I die doing it, that hospital is going to be built.'

A Briston resident asked whether the reduced plans allowed for the many thousands of new homes planned throughout Norfolk.

Mrs Cave said extended hours, with evening and weekend sessions, would help cope with any increased demand.

Under the new preferred option, the hospital would deal with 103,000 patients annually, compared to the current 96,000.

While some expensive services would be transferred to the N&N, new and expanded services would be available in Cromer, including minor 'lumps and bumps' surgery and a permanent breast screening unit.

'These are key in terms of travel,' said Mrs Cave. 'Why would you want to travel to Norwich for a 10-minute procedure?'

But Mary Granville-White, chairman of the older people's forum, feared the impact of switching some services to Norwich.

She asked: 'Are you looking at providing extra overnight beds at the Norfolk and Norwich which is already under such pressure? Are you looking at carers having to take time off work to take people to Norwich? It's not just about numbers. There are many aspects to these decisions.'

And Sue Willis, of the Griffon Area Partnership, said hospital transport provision must be improved. She added: 'Not everyone has got a car. There needs to be a bus that would get everyone, in all the little villages, to an 8am appointment and get them all home again afterwards.'

North Walsham

CREEPING privatisation fears were firmly quashed by Graham Copsey when he outlined the new NHS-beds-in-care-homes option for North Walsham.

The scheme could see a 56-bedded care home with nursing built on the Yarmouth Road health campus site in which the NHS would contract a minimum of 24 beds.

Mr Copsey said it would be similar to the Aylsham model, where NHS beds are planned for a new care home, replacing St Michael's community hospital which will close when the beds are ready.

But he stressed that no decisions had been made about North Walsham and the board could still recommend the earlier proposal, to replace the current 17-bed hospital with a dedicated 24-bedded unit.

A range of out-patient services could also be provided in Rebecca House, a former special unit for dementia patients on the site, and homes could be built on the campus for the over-55s.

One woman claimed that when Rebecca House closed patients had been transferred into private nursing homes. She believed NHS beds in a care home would amount to the same.

And another member of the audience supported her. He asked: 'Is this just another method of privatising the NHS and our hospital so that you can wash your hands of it?'

But Mr Copsey insisted that the scheme was about using available money to provide services needed, and was not a bid to privatise by stealth.

Sonia Shuter, health improvement officer with North Norfolk District Council, was concerned that not all people needing intermediate care in North Walsham hospital were elderly and a bed in a care home would not be appropriate for them.

Mary Granville-White said there had been no opportunity for the public to look at the alternative option before next week's board meeting.

Mr Copsey said if the board recommended the option consultations would follow.