As both your local MP, and as a practicing NHS hospital doctor who has cared for patients from Suffolk,I have always been a strong supporter of Hartismere Community Hospital.
Working with the League of Friends, and many others, I helped to keep Hartismere open when it was repeatedly threatened with closure.
Perhaps one of my proudest moments as your MP, was when I succeeded in getting £1.5 million from the local NHS to refurbish our much loved community hospital in the summer of 2012.
Hartismere provides about 25 different community health and rehabilitation services for patients.
Given that the hospital is 20 miles from both Ipswich and the Norfolk and Norwich Hospitals, I have always believed that Hartismere has the potential to offer many more NHS services to patients in our rural communities.
So, over the past two years, I have been working hard to persuade local health bosses to provide more services from the hospital, and I am pleased to be able to report success.
There will soon be a new learning disability service at Hartismere, providing care and support for children with learning disabilities, as well as for their families.
And, over the next few months, a new care home will be built on the hospital site.
The new care home will be able to provide vital NHS community beds to look after patients in need of rehabilitation after a fall or illness, as well as providing respite care beds for people with cancer and terminal illnesses.
By 2018, there will be over 3 million people in the UK with three or more, long term medical conditions like diabetes and dementia.
In order to look after people with increasingly complex medical needs, more care needs to be provided in the community.
At my very first meeting with the new Chief Executive of Ipswich Hospital Nick Hulme, I explained to him the huge potential of Hartismere to support close to home NHS care, in particular for frail older patients.
So, I am pleased to report that Ipswich Hospital is now examining how Hartismere could provide more outpatient and other NHS community services for rural patients which are currently only available at Ipswich.
I am also pleased to have helped to persuade the health service in Norfolk to put money into providing more patient services at Hartismere.
This is a very big step forward. Hartismere has always been funded by the NHS in Suffolk, but from 2016, for the very first time, additional funding from the NHS in Norfolk will be available to help Hartismere provide more patient care services for our rural communities.
The future for Hartismere, and for patients in rural Suffolk looks bright, but we must keep up the pressure on the local NHS to ensure that current plans translate into the reality of better facilities and improved care for patients.
As your MP, I shall continue to use my knowledge and skills as an NHS hospital doctor to do all that I can to protect and support Hartismere Hospital, and the patients it cares for.
n Dr Poulter is MP for North Ipswich and Central Suffolk