Forum’s hope to secure support to turn hospital into community hub

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

There are two options for creating a community hub at Ottery Hospital, according to the town’s health and care forum.

The organisation has set out its plans in a letter to health bosses and says it has hope it can save the building for use by the community.

Currently the hospital building is 60 per cent empty and its fate of the hospital and its use has been a concern for some years.

In November 2018, the town received reassurances from Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care that he could see opportunities for a potential hub in the hospital.

The forum has suggested that either RD&E could take on ownership of the hospital or the space be recommissioned by other health bodies or other authorities.

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Ottery St Mary health and care forum chairman Elli Pang and deputy-chairman Leigh Edwards met with NHS Property Services Limited (NHSPSL) on July 17 and said discussions brought up 'good news' for the facility.

Shortly before the forum's meeting, health minister Stephen Hammond announced new guidance on NHS property ownership which will allow NHS trusts to apply for the transfer of ownership.

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Mrs Pang said: "This is potentially really good news, and it gives us hopes that all the stakeholders are now working together to make that real."

The forum said this news meant it would be viable for the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust to apply to take on ownership from NHSPSL at no extra cost.

The forum outlines a number of services that could utilise the hospital's extra space to expand the Rowan and Linden dementia ward, more consultation clinics and a small number of respite beds.

Mr Edwards wrote: "If the RD&E NHS Trust were to re-adopt the Ottery St Mary Hospital building, the full commercial rental charges would be taken away, The only future costs to the RD&E NHS Trust would then be the much lower annual upkeep and maintenance costs of a beautifully modern building, that is in first class condition, It seems this is a win win situation."

If transferring to the trust was not possible the forum would like to see a number of groups such as Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Devon Partnership NHS Trust (DPT) or Devon County Council recommission the empty space and make it available for its proposed services.

In the letter to health bosses, Mr Edwards wrote: "All the priorities in the world can be defined and communicated widely, but here is a real opportunity for our health and social care providers, and the commissioners of those services, to actually do something real and practical for the health and well people of Ottery St Mary and the district.

"That is, to really make a difference and to set an example for others to follow. Only two viable solutions seem to remain open, if we are to see our community hospital fully utilised as a health and wellbeing hub."

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