Suffolk

Colchester and Ipswich hospitals merger 'will save services'

Ipswich Hospital
Image caption The boards of both hospitals will make a decision on 29 March

A planned merger between two NHS hospital trusts "will save clinical services", hospital bosses said.

The business plan for integrating Ipswich Hospital and Colchester General Hospital has been published, with the two boards due to decide on the merger on 29 March.

Any merger would have to be approved by health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Patients have raised concerns about travelling further to get to either hospital.

Image caption Both hospitals share a medical director, Dr Barbara Buckley, and a chief executive, Nick Hulme

A hospital spokeswoman said the trusts have been talking to patients, the public and staff since the merger plans were mooted in 2017.

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of the Healthwatch Suffolk patients' watchdog, said travel for patients, carers, volunteers and staff had been a concern from the outset, but "on paper, the merger is the right thing".

'Rabbit warren'

Dr Barbara Buckley, who is already medical director at both hospitals, said the merger was not based on any plans to move services from one hospital to the other.

"Our doctors may want to change some services to improve them, but we would consult the public fully on any such proposals," she said.

Dr Buckley said without the merger, the risk was that neither hospital could provide the "wide variety of services" which they do at the moment.

"By being a merged organisation, we will be better able to recruit, retain and train high-calibre staff," she said.

Mr Hulme, the chief executive of both hospitals, said a merger would help save specialist services, because more patients will be able to be treated.

Image caption Health secretary Jeremy Hunt will have the final say on the merger

The merger would also enable them to access more capital from the Department of Health, he said.

He said priorities would include investing in the accident and emergency department at Colchester, which he described as being "like a rabbit warren".

More investment would be made in diagnostics at Ipswich's A&E department, he said.

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