Fears over Ottery Hospital ownership change

Ottery St Mary Hospital entrance. Ref sho 7454-44-14TI Picture: Terry Ife

Ottery St Mary Hospital entrance. Ref sho 7454-44-14TI Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Concern as future of building remains uncertain

Fresh doubt has been cast over the future of Ottery Hospital - and further investment stalled - over concerns about its impending new ownership, writes Eleanor Pipe.

NHS Property Services is expected to take on the hospital when new service providers are confirmed this spring. Under its ownership, a commercial rent would need to be generated from leasing a percentage of the building.

The hospital was paid for by community funds and received a £135,000 renovation in 2013 to make it ‘dementia friendly’ – but was dealt a blow when a long-standing battle to save its inpatient bed unit was lost in July 2015.

Chairman of the Ottery Hospital League of Friends, Adrian Rutter, said: “We have been concerned for quite some time - ever since the future of the hospital became uncertain – that if we were to use the funds that the people of Ottery have given, then we need to make sure they stay in the community. We are desperately concerned and it is definitely something that is holding us back from investing in services – we are committed to the hospital and health services in our town, but we cannot make long-term decisions and investments at the moment.”

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Plans led by the NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) - a body responsible for commissioning healthcare services - are now under way to turn the hospital into a health and wellbeing hub.

The hub would provide a variety of medical and non-NHS services for the community.

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Chairman of Ottery’s health and social care forum, Elli Pang, said: “If this model and proposal by the CCG does not work, then there is a big question mark about the future of our community hospitals. We need to find a way to maximise the use of the hospital for NHS services and we then need to find other groups or private providers to rent space there at commercial rent.”

She expressed concerns about the viability of the project and how services provided under the auspices of a health hub will be regulated.

Dr Alex Degan, a GP and CCG board member, said: “This is very much work in progress, but we are working very closely with community representatives, local people and the voluntary sector.”

He said a ‘compelling narrative’ has been made for the role of community services in meeting people’s needs as close to home as possible. Dr Degan confirmed all services commissioned from the hospital, whether NHS or non-NHS, will be required to meet the terms of a needs assessment for the local population.

NHS Property Services is responsible for managing 4,000 NHS buildings worth an estimated £3billion. Its remit is to renovate or sell properties according to needs, with any money saved ploughed back into the NHS.

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