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LOCAL GPs are appealing for Bridlington Hospital's cardiac monitoring unit to stay open. In a hard-hitting open letter to the Free Press, the town's GPs have condemned plans by the hospital trust to shut the unit down as "politically motivated" and say that, in their opinion, people will die needlessly as a result.

It is the first time Bridlington's GPs have got together as a group to voice such public criticism of the Scarborough and North East Yorkshire Healthcare NHS Trust's plans.

Signed by representatives of the town's five surgeries, on behalf of more than 20 doctors who serve the Bridlington area, the letter says the cardiac unit's closure will put life-saving treatment at least 30 minutes away in Scarborough.

Medical intervention within the first hour for cardiac patients is known to reduce the death rate and the GPs argue that the already-overstretched ambulance service cannot guarantee to reach patients quickly enough.

"Patients die on the way to Scarborough. While this is sometimes tragically inevitable, in this instance it is not necessary," say the doctors.

They claim that by having a CMU at Bridlington, physicians can offer a wider range of services, knowing the unit would be immediately available if needed.

If the unit is shut, they say Bridlington Hospital will become a rehabilitation and convalescence unit.

High quality, acute medical and nursing staff would quickly leave and be impossible to replace.

They describe as "unacceptable" the likelihood of many elderly and infirm people being cut off from visiting their partners or loved ones.

"Many of our patients cannot afford, or are physically too frail, to travel to Scarborough or Hull on public transport.

"Closing the CMU would separate them from their family with no increased chance of survival," the letter says.

They also say many patients with angina choose to live in Bridlington because it is flat and they need a local cardiac unit and the GPs say the proposed closure is politically driven.

The GPs' letter is on its way to the Scarborough and North East Yorkshire Healthcare NHS Trust, Secretary of State for Health Alan Johnson MP, Bridlington MP Gregg Knight, the Strategic Health Authority, East Riding of Yorkshire Primary Care Trust and East Riding of Yorkshire Council's overview and scrutiny committee.

It comes just under a week before a meeting of a new group called the Service Re-Configuration High Level Project Board.

It has about 20 members, including representatives from the hospital trust, GPs, cardiologists, patient organisations and social services.

It is believed that services at Bridlington Hospital, including the future of the cardiac monitoring unit, will be under discussion.

The trust's reccomendation is to close it but the final decision is not likely to be made until March.