Concerns for future of Ottery St Mary Hospital following loss of stroke unit
- Credit: Archant
Health bosses say transfer of services to RD&E Hospital will benefit patients
Ottery St Mary Hospital will lose its stroke rehabilitation unit in April, sparking concerns for the future of the community-funded facility.
The transfer of services back to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (RD&E) has long been expected and health bosses say the move will benefit patients, who will be able to access 24-hour medical cover and a range of specialist staff.
But it represents another blow to the town following the decision to close its inpatient beds in July 2015 - and campaigners have voiced fears that the less the hospital is used, the more it is at risk of being ‘disposed of’ as an asset.
Ottery Hospital League of Friends has vowed to ensure local authorities play their part in securing the future of the town’s ‘vital’ facility and is meeting with health bosses to discuss how the site will be used.
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Its chairman Adrian Rutter said: “The stroke rehabilitation unit has been at Ottery Hospital [on a temporary basis] since 2013.
“Without Ottery’s well equipped, purpose-built hospital - and its people - it simply wouldn’t have been possible to try out new care services safely and smoothly. It’s yet more proof of the value of community hospitals being at the heart of their communities.”
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Mr Rutter added a ‘huge thanks’ on behalf of the league to hospital staff.
The unit’s move back to the RD&E is the final stage in completing recommendations from a 2013 consultation led by Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and the Stroke Association.
Chair of the Ottery and District Health and Care Forum Elli Pang said it had always been understood that the stroke unit would move to the RD&E but its transfer raises questions as to the future of the hospital.
She criticised the CCG for what she calls its ‘silence’ on the hospital and whether or not the building will become a ‘health hub’.
County councillor and campaigner Claire Wright echoed her concerns, and said: “The less the hospital is used, the more at risk it is from being disposed as an asset.”
The stroke rehabilitation facility will be transferred to the RD&E’s Yealm Ward, next to the acute stroke unit, and hospital rehabilitation services currently sited there are due to relocate into the community.
RD&E stroke consultant Martin James said patients will benefit from greater continuity in care and 24-hour medical cover on site.
He added that staff will form part of a bigger specialist team with increased opportunities to develop skills and gain input from a range of stroke specialists.
A spokeswoman for the RD&E Trust said: “While there are no immediate plans for new services in the space currently occupied by stroke rehabilitation, we are committed to working with the local community and partners to support the ongoing development of safe, effective and sustainable care services moving forward.
“These services could be delivered at home or in a care facility - like the hospital - based on what is most appropriate. It is important to note that there are also a number of outpatient clinics that currently run at Ottery Hospital that will not be directly affected by the stroke move.”