People urged to back health cuts protest

PEOPLE are being urged to turn out in force at a rally in Lowestoft town centre next weekend to send a 'strong message' to NHS chiefs over proposed cuts to mental health care services in Waveney.

Former Waveney MP Bob Blizzard has organised the protest to oppose the cuts announced by the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Trust, which will lead to jobs being axed and beds being cut on the east coast.

It comes as new figures reveal the high cost of placing patients in 'out of trust' beds.

Under plans drawn up to help it meet the government's demand for a 20pc budget cut across the NHS, the trust aims to shed 500 jobs and 20pc of its in-patient beds over the next few years across Norfolk and Suffolk.

In Waveney and Great Yarmouth, that could see:

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?The number of acute adult in-patient beds cut from 42 to 20, with a resulting ward closure at either Carlton Court Hospital in Carlton Colville or the Northgate Hospital in Great Yarmouth

?The number of acute dementia beds cut from 12 to three.

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?A reduction in staff by about 100 (full time equivalent) posts.

Mr Blizzard, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Waveney, is urging people to attend the rally to 'send a strong message to the government and the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust to think again'.

He said: 'None of the professional mental health staff I've spoken to believe that the service can operate properly with less than half the number of acute adult and acute dementia beds. The beds are normally under so much pressure that patients are being accommodated in private beds, sent out of area or having to wait.

'Service users, families and carers I've spoken to are horrified by these cuts. I hope that lots of people will turn up to the rally and show their opposition by saying 'no'.'

Mr Blizzard said the need to oppose the cuts was highlighted in figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, which reveal that in Norfolk and Waveney in the last two years the trust spent over �3m placing 68 adult patients in private or out of area beds.

This does not include patients placed under service contracts.

In announcing the cuts last month, the trust said in-patient beds were only being cut 'where there is evidence they are no longer needed' and it was doing all that it could to avoid compulsory redundancies.

The rally takes place at 11am on Saturday, starting outside the Marina Theatre.

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