Chair’s 2017 AGM Annual Report

Halesworth Health’s aim is to ensure good, local, integrated public healthcare services are available, both now and in the future, for the people of Halesworth and surrounding villages.

It is probably an understatement to say that it’s been a difficult year, in fact several years, for Halesworth Health. The hope expressed in the final paragraph of last year’s AGM talk, that building a new facility would have started by the time of this AGM, has sadly not been realised. We fully recognise the concerns and frustration of those working locally in healthcare and also the local people.

Following our last AGM it was hoped, after the joint project exhibition in May 2106 had successfully engaged the public, that the original project would go to planning before the end of 2016. The plan, which would have enabled the new healthcare facility to be built on the Halesworth Playing Field Association (HPFA) land, adjacent to Cutlers Hill Surgery, depended on the two sports charities – the HPFA and Campus – agreeing to merge, in order to take forward the proposal for all sport and leisure facilities to be based on the former Middle School site. Unfortunately in November 2016 the PFA voted unanimously to withdraw from the joint project. This meant that the project could not proceed and HPFA land was effectively no longer available.

As you will remember Gt. Yarmouth and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group, (the CCG) announced, after a public consultation in 2015, that they would close Patrick Stead Hospital (PSH) when new facilities were available in Castlemeadow Care’s proposed new building. Unfortunately for various reasons, including the delays in the health and sport project, nursing staff became increasingly unsettled and shortages occurred. East Coast Community Healthcare withdrew from their PSH contract in March 2017, due to staffing problems and the potential risk to patients. This resulted in closure of the beds prematurely. It also disrupted the outpatient services.

The Campus Charity and Castlemeadow Care (CMC), the proposed healthcare provider, were thankfully very keen to look at other options, and a new plan, despite enormous complexities, has evolved. Halesworth Health trustees still attend regular joint project meetings. CMC are now buying a portion of the former Middle School land on which to build a care home. Signing the agreement is imminent. This will include NHS funded beds and hopefully outpatient facilities, as well as private residential and nursing beds; facilities for people with dementia will be designed and run in accordance with the latest research based standards. In addition there will be housing with extra care on site, all to be managed by CMC.

The owner of CMC, Dr Sanjay Kaushal, is still fully committed to the project despite its previous setbacks, and wishes to provide a high level of integrated health and care. This will all be adjacent to the new sport and leisure site, which will include the skills training centre. There are many potential benefits to health of the sports proposals and it is also hoped that the skills centre will be able to provide training for care workers in conjunction with CMC.

There have been many concerns about local health services over the last year. This includes the lack of availability of a local out of hospital team, so that, given the closure of community beds, caring for people at home who are ill but don’t need an acute district hospital, has become much more difficult. Patients, including those at the end of their lives, have had to be admitted to the acute hospitals when it would have been more appropriate to be cared for locally. There has also been concern and confusion about the availability and site of outpatient clinics, and future provision of the minor injury service. All of these issues are currently being addressed by the CCG, hopefully with positive outcomes. The minor injury service, thankfully, will now continue to run from Cutlers Hill Surgery.

The future of Patrick Stead Hospital, owned by NHS Property Services Ltd. is at this stage uncertain, but we believe the ideal short term solution is to maintain the outpatient services on the ground floor until CMC is available. This is being partly achieved currently by great support from local volunteers.

The Rayner Green Resource Centre has been ‘under review’ for over a year. This is of great concern as it provides an excellent service to people from Halesworth and surrounding towns and villages, often with severe disability, especially dementia. It enables people to remain living at home for longer and reduces hospital admissions. No new ‘admissions’ to Rayner Green have been allowed during this time while its future funding and purpose is discussed. We will ensure that constructive discussions continue between the CCG, Suffolk County Council adult care and the local community to achieve a positive outcome in maintaining this vital service.

The CCG, with their new Chief Executive Melanie Craig in post this year, has been very supportive in principle of the specific needs of this rural area with its elderly population.  The CCG’s main constraint is financial deficit while trying to achieve high standard services in each area. It is however very important to distinguish between equality and equity.  Equality – i.e. the same services available to all areas – is not always appropriate when there is so much variation in need between urban and rural areas, especially when the population demography can be so different. Equity allows each different area to have specific services that meet their local needs.

The recent draft Waveney Local Plan predicts a huge increase in the number of new houses for Halesworth, which will of course put healthcare and educational services under increasing stress.  The CCG recognises this and is looking at the best options for the future. It’s vital that Cutlers Hill Surgery and Halesworth Health continue to voice their concerns and have constructive discussions with the CCG.

I wish to thank all the trustees of Halesworth Health for their continuing involvement and hard work during this difficult period. Dr. Annette Abbott is also a trustee in the Campus Charity, representing Halesworth Health. Our charity is involved with other local healthcare organisations: Karen Kerridge chairs the League of Friends of PSH; Nikki Sawkins is chair of Halesworth Dementia Carers’ Fund and she and I are trustees of Halesworth Community Nursing Care Fund. Our trustees overall represent healthcare, the voluntary sector and the general public, locally.

Many thanks again to Edward Hare for all his support and guidance with the project, on a pro bono basis. His background in social services, charity work and other projects of this nature is hugely valuable to us. Thanks to Helen Goodbourne for her administrative help. We are also very grateful to the volunteers who work on a daily basis to keep Patrick Stead Hospital open for people needing blood tests. Thanks to all those working, and doing their best in difficult circumstances, in healthcare services locally.

I am having to resign from being chair of this charity due to health problems, but am willing to remain as a trustee.

We will continue to keep our list of interested people informed by e-mail, if that is their wish, – hopefully with some more positive news in the next few months!

Dr Richard Kell