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Multi-million pound improvement plan

PUBLISHED: 14:20 03 November 2008 | UPDATED: 21:41 05 July 2010

Patients in Yarmouth and Waveney will soon benefit from more doctors, longer opening hours at surgeries and cuts in waiting times for treatment.

A new five-year health strategy for the area also includes multi-million pound cash boosts for community hospitals to meet a pledge to shift some health services away from the James Paget Hospital at Gorleston.

Patients in Yarmouth and Waveney will soon benefit from more doctors, longer opening hours at surgeries and cuts in waiting times for treatment.

A new five-year health strategy for the area also includes multi-million pound cash boosts for community hospitals to meet a pledge to shift some health services away from the James Paget Hospital at Gorleston.

Beccles Hospital will be given a £22m upgrade, though it is not yet known whether this will involve a site move with the Patrick Stead at Halesworth, and Northgate hospital in Yarmouth is also in line for major modernisation.

A draft strategic plan was approved by the primary care trust on Friday night with NHS Yarmouth and Waveney pledging to deliver the “fastest improving health in England”.

It envisages the average patient list for GPs will drop from 1800 to 1600, thanks to 15 extra GPs, and the average waiting time between referral and receiving treatment for most patients being cut to just 10 weeks from the current target of 18 weeks.

Currently 50pc of GP practices open for extended hours, offering an extra 30 minutes per week outside normal hours for every 1,000 patients on their books, although this figure is expected to hit the 70pc mark by Christmas. The trust is keen to develop incentives for GPs to be open 8am - 8pm seven days a week.

There is good news for Southwold and Reydon residents who will be able to see an NHS dentist for the first time, with six to eight extra dentists over the next two years, including at Lowestoft, Yarmouth, Martham and Halesworth.

But the trust also faces big challenges, as statistics revealed an 18-year gap in life expectancy between the least and most deprived wards in the district.

PCT chief executive Mike Stonard said: “That's a staggering statistic and one of the priority areas of this strategy is to reduce that gap. We need to start looking at lifestyle and it's a much more subtle approach than we may have been used to.”

He said such measures such as free swimming and a continuation of the fruit and vegetable van service, which sells produce at cost price in deprived areas, would help address the problem, as well as cutting obesity and smoking rates.

More options for long term care, including care at home, will be aided by the opening of a new multi-agency primary care centre in Yarmouth next year, followed by a second centre in Lowestoft.

Over the next five years the trust, which is funded by central government, plans to pump a gross of £100 million into services, on top of its current spending level of £350million a year.

The plan will now pass through a number of stages before it is finalised.

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