Appeal launched for £400k dementia unit

Sidmouth Victoria Hospital Ref shs 3264-50-14AW. Picture: Alex Walton.

Sidmouth Victoria Hospital Ref shs 3264-50-14AW. Picture: Alex Walton. - Credit: Archant

Tireless fundraisers this week launched a bid to create a £400,000 dementia centre at Sidmouth Victoria Hospital.

The new project has been announced just months after the health hub’s comforts fund celebrated the completion of a total refurbishment - which saw the community raise millions over 25 years.

Residents are now being asked to dig deep once again so a unit can be built in a roof void at the hospital.

The Sid Valley alone has more than 500 known cases of dementia, placing it at the ‘vanguard’ of Britain’s future health needs.

Sidmouth Victoria Hospital Comforts Fund chairman, Graham Vincent, told its annual general meeting: “Just because we’ve finished our massive upgrade doesn’t mean we can sit back – oh no – we must have a challenge, and what better challenge can we have in today’s world than dementia?

“Everyone knows of someone who suffers from this disease. If – or I would like to say, when – we get consent from the [North Devon Healthcare] trust it will be a massive undertaking, but something that is so needed.

“We’ve got that roof void there. We have to use it. We can’t just sit back and put our feet up.”

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The fifth and final phase of the hospital’s £4.5million refurbishment project was completed last year, safeguarding it for the 21st century.

Apart from some professional fees, all of the money came from local residents to give Sidmouth ‘one of the best community hospitals in the country’.

But Mr Vincent said comforts fund trustees felt guilty there was an empty space going unused so, hot on the heels of their last project, they set to work on their next challenge.

They will need to raise some £400,000 to fund a lift and a staircase into the roof void, as well as windows, doors, utilities and finishes.

Trustees have already discussed the plans with the Sid Valley Memory Café and other interested parties, and a business case is being compiled for the North Devon Healthcare Trust, which owns the hospital.

Once it has given the go-ahead, the comforts fund will finance a feasibility study.

Angela Pedder OBE, the chief executive of the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Trust, said the town’s age profile is where the rest of the country will be in 2075.

“You are our vanguard,” she told the meeting. “We have to find a model of service that works locally. I see this as what a vibrant health future looks like.”