Tuesday 14th July is D Day for orthopaedic surgery at Ipswich Hospital, when North East Essex and Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinic Commissioning Groups meet to decide whether to move non-urgent orthopaedic surgery from Ipswich to Colchester Hospital.
There’s no doubt that Suffolk residents oppose this. The NHS consultation exercise – carried out at the height of the coronavirus outbreak – still yielded 66% opposition. An online petition has garnered more than 8,000 signatures at the time of writing.
Also not in doubt is that the decision to move this service was made some time ago and a little thing like massive public opposition isn’t going to stop it.
Ipswich was never competing on a level playing field. The hospital trust is trying to solve two issues: increasing orthopaedic surgery capacity and improving day surgery provision at Colchester. From what we are told, they have only received enough Government money to do this with a joint project at Colchester.
So, the needs of Colchester mean that Ipswich was never in contention. This is a recurring theme since the merger of the two hospitals. Ipswich bailed out the failing Colchester Hospital but, since then, Colchester has improved while Ipswich has deteriorated.
A cloak of secrecy surrounds this decision. We have asked for the detailed costings of the various options looked at, but this has been refused on the grounds of “commercial confidentiality”. This makes it impossible to verify the truth of the assertions about affordability.
And this is important because some of the things we were told initially, such as the location of a mains sewer preventing development at Ipswich, subsequently turned out not to be the case.
I am deeply disappointed that the majority of Suffolk’s Conservative MPs have failed to back calls to keep orthopaedic surgery at Ipswich. It’s not just people in the town who will be disadvantaged by this move. Residents in rural Suffolk will now face much worse journeys for surgery and I would have expected them to receive more support from their MPs.
The battle’s not over yet but surely it would have dramatically improved our chances of keeping orthopaedic surgery at Ipswich if all Suffolk’s MPs had rowed in behind the campaign.