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NHS managers are secretly plotting to run down one of Britain's biggest community hospitals and hush up the

decision until after the election, documents leaked to Pulse reveal.

Minutes from a Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale PCT meeting expose plans to 'get to a position where no beds are available at Malton and Whitby', writes Rob Finch.

The minutes from a meeting on January 31 between PCT executives and managers from the local NHS trust warn 'nothing must hit the press this side of the election'.

The decision to turn the 90-bed Whitby hospital into a 'no beds' unit using no consultants or GPs comes before a consultation with patients and staff, launched by the PCT in December, has concluded.

The closure of the acute care and minor injuries services will mean patients having to travel 20 miles to Scarborough General Hospital. Only nurse-run palliative and elderly care, diagnostics and outpatient services will stay in Whitby.

Local GPs and GPC negotiators expressed outrage at the plans.

Dr Terry McCormack said GPs who worked at the hospital were in shock. He said: 'The morale of the staff is appalling. This is going to hit waiting lists and the bed situation in Scarborough hard.'

Dr Peter Holden, GPC negotiator with responsibility for community hospitals, derided the plan as 'a mad idea'. He said: 'These half-baked middle-ranking managers think they can get round the costs.'

Michael Whitworth, chief executive of Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale PCT, said the minutes were not official and he 'couldn't remember' any discussion about the election. He added that the hospital would 'absolutely not' close.

He said: 'We're working on the premise that to get district general hospital services it's best to get them on a district general hospital site.'

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