Reader Letter: Re-open Lowestoft Hospital to help NHS in crisis

PUBLISHED: 17:00 09 October 2018

The old Lowestoft hospital. Picture: Nick Butcher

The old Lowestoft hospital. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2017

Regarding the article on ‘Campaign launched to re-open Lowestoft Hospital’, I express full support for this campaign.

Some readers may remember that shortly after I was elected as a District Councillor for Oulton in 2015, Oulton Medical Centre (OMC) was closed following Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections.

As a result of this closure extra pressure was put on other local surgeries to take displaced patients.

As an example of the outcome, Bridge Road Surgery in Oulton Broad took on an extra 3,000 patients.

Shortly after OMC closed I met with Mr Andy Evans the then Chief Executive of Great Yarmouth and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

I asked what was planned to replace the closed OMC due to the resulting demand for appropriate services being caused by building in excess of 850 houses at Woods Meadow.

Astonishingly he knew nothing about this development and consequently had not developed a plan!

I raised the need for the CCG and Waveney District Council (WDC) Planners to work in partnership with future developments especially as the new Local Development Plan includes significant new housing developments.

I am pleased to say that as a direct consequence WDC now informs and asks for comments from the CCG on any new developments.

However over three years on from the closure of OMC we are no nearer to having a new surgery in Oulton.

Throughout this time I have had discussions with the CCG and even received assurances that a medical centre would be built on Woods Meadow.

Despite this, it was recently advised that the site might not be large enough for the medical centre and associated car parking.

Amazingly after all this time, it has been decided that there now needs to be a feasibility study to see if a health centre would be suitable on the Woods Meadow site or whether there will be a need to identify an alternative location.

Apparently health planning for Lowestoft includes the provision of a ‘North Lowestoft Co Locality Health Hub’.

Surgeries such as Bridge Rd, Alexandra Rd, Crestview Drive and High St Surgeries which would be included in the ‘hub’ are themselves however reported by the CCG to already have, ‘premises issues.’

In pursuit of a possible alternative solution, in June 2018, I met Mr Martin Royal (CCG Estates Advisor) and questioned whether a North Lowestoft Medical centre could be built on the Lowestoft Hospital site.

Last week I was informed that the Lowestoft Hospital site will now be included in the overall feasibility study along with other potential sites.

As reported in the Journal by Waveney TUC and Lowestoft Coalition against the Cuts, a health centre with beds would be an excellent solution that, I have long supported.

This alternative and potentially financially viable approach would allow the Lowestoft Hospital site to be used for a North Lowestoft Co locality hub (as is Kirkley Mill Health Centre on the South side of Lowestoft), with the addition of nursing beds to support James Paget University Hospital who own this valuable site.

This would avoid scarce NHS funds being used to buy services from commercial providers, inevitability leading to fragmentation and likely reduced facility for patients.

Great Yarmouth and Waveney CCG are currently commissioning beds with care in private care homes in preparation for an anticipated winter crisis.

Such ad-hoc solutions in recent years have been both very expensive and barely able to address the needs of patients.

The NHS strives to discharge hospital patients once their medical needs have been addressed, however some patients do not have suitable support available following such discharge.

This problem exacerbates the known problem of delayed transfers (bed blocking) and perpetuates the cycle of excessive demand on hospitals, NHS staff and facilities.

Many patients causing ‘bed blocking’ do not require the specialist care of General hospitals but continue to need intermediate support prior to returning home.

Lowestoft Hospital previously was able to provide exactly the level of support to many patients that if reinstated could dramatically ease bed blocking at JPH while providing appropriate support and care to local people in an accessible environment with other intermediate support being readily available.

Waveney District Councillor Jane Murray for Oulton.

Shadow Portfolio holder for Community, Health and Safety.

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